What a great book! This was another engrossing book by Barbara Kingsolver. I especially enjoyed this one as it was partially set in Mexico and feature...moreWhat a great book! This was another engrossing book by Barbara Kingsolver. I especially enjoyed this one as it was partially set in Mexico and featured Digeo Rivera and Frida Kahlo. I’ve read quite about about both of them, and have even visited their ‘Blue House’ in Mexico City. By reading this book leanred more about how their lives intersected with Leon Trotsky. I knew Trotsky lived in the Blue House for awhile when he first arrived in Mexico. I didn't know much about history surrounding his break with Joseph Stalin and why Stalin wanted him dean. Now I have a better understaning of that chapter in history.
The book posed some great questions, and I learned more about the communist witch hunts of the 1950’s. It’s not the best chapter in American history! But this is one of Kingsolver's best books! (less)
I received this book in ARC form in order to review it for the Luxury Reading blog site. This book just blew me away. I hope they don't change much be...moreI received this book in ARC form in order to review it for the Luxury Reading blog site. This book just blew me away. I hope they don't change much between the ARC copy I read, and the final copy that goes to press for distribution.
The story interweaves three inter-connected storylines. All three are told with compassion and insight. It could have been a bit of a smarm-fest, but the author danced that fine line beautifully.(less)
This book review was originally written for and published on the LuxuryReading.com book review website. --------------------------
The college years are...moreThis book review was originally written for and published on the LuxuryReading.com book review website. --------------------------
The college years are usually full of angst, longing, uncertainty and growth. The main characters in Chad Harbach’s debut novel, “The Art of Fielding” experience all sorts of conflicting emotions and life experiences as they each struggle to define who they are within the small rural Wisconsin campus of Westish College; and who they will become when they leave college. This book has been billed as a baseball story. There are plenty of pages devoted to the discussion of baseball philosophy (the Zen of Baseball if you will) and lots of descriptions of baseball games. For those of you who aren’t baseball fans or who normally shy away from sports centered books I’d suggest that step up and (ahem) take a swing at this book anyway. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
To me this story was reminiscent of John Irving’s, “A Prayer for Owen Meany” or David James Duncan’s “The Brothers K”. Like “The Art of Fielding”, both of these books had strong baseball themes; and like “The Art of Fielding”, they were both about so much more than baseball. At more than 500 pages, Harbach has given himself a broad enough canvas to also be able to throw in some Herman Melville history and other 19th century poets and philosophers. Guert Affenlight, the current Westish College President became a Melville scholar and changed his intended career because of a discovery about Melville that he made as a Westish undergrad. The Westish teams are called the “Harpooners” and Melville is a symbolic mascot for the campus.
The story centers around five main characters. Henry Skrimshander is the phenom short-stop recruited by Mike Schwartz who is himself still just a sophomore at Westish when the story opens. Schwartz is a motivator and mentor to his teammates, but he has higher aspirations for his life than just coaching. Owen Dunne is Henry’s erudite gay roommate who also happens to be an exceptional batter on the Westish baseball team. Pella, Guert’s daughter, arrives back in Wisconsin the day that Henry makes his first ever throwing error. Owen is seriously injured and hospitalized by the throw. Guert is so preoccupied by his unexpected obsession with Owen that he barely has time to acknowledge that his daughter has fled back to him, leaving her depressing marriage behind in San Francisco.
How all the characters react to the consequences of that one errant throw propel the story arc for the remaining bulk of the book. If the story seems overly tinged with soap opera angst the fault lies with my abridged retelling of the bare plotlines. The book feels lively and character driven as Harbach takes his time to tease out the nuances of the story. Overall, I thought Harbach only copped out with the resolution of the relationship between Guert and Owen. Otherwise this memorable story about friendship and coming of age reminded me how tough it was to work through all the issues the college years presented.