Thomas Holbrook's Reviews > Calico Joe

Calico Joe by John Grisham
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M 50x66
's review
May 07, 2012

really liked it
Read from May 03 to 05, 2012

John Grisham is an excellent author of fiction. His general fiction is superb due to his ability for character development and his ear for dialogue. When the focus of his fiction is sports related (Playing for Pizza and Bleachers) he seems to find a richer vein from which to mine the stones that produces such gems. This present novel is further proof of both Mr. Grisham’s writing talent and his knowledge of sports, in this case, America’s Past Time (which is baseball, for those of you still wondering the world without the love of this sport). If the author is not a baseball fan, he certainly did appropriate research for him to speak of the language of that tribe like a native.
The book is told from the first person perspective of Paul Tracey, the son of Warren Tracey, a journeyman pitcher in the early 70’s, as he deals with his father’s impending death, what his father did to end the son’s love of baseball and his desire to help his father atone for that act. Warren Tracey was a mean, narcissistic, violent alcoholic who all but abandoned his family when Paul was 12. Joe Castle was a young first baseman in the Chicago Cubs organization who was called up to play in the summer 1973. Joe’s hit safely in his first 15 at bats in The Show, hitting three home runs in his first game and helped the Cubbies come from middle of the pack to challenging for the National League Eastern Division lead in the short time he was with that team. In the 38 games he played, he became a national hero, the darling of Chicago and an enemy to Warren Tracey. One pitch and the potentially brightest star in baseball history was dimmed before he qualified for being considered a “Big Leaguer.”
This book uses baseball as a platform from which Mr. Grisham can explore family relationships, another area that causes his books to sparkle. The enmity Paul holds towards his father is well earned, Warren may be one of the most disgraceful fathers in literature (he would have been at home in Bleak House) and will be hatefully remembered (in the fictional world created in this book) as the man who deliberately ended the career of “Calico Joe” Castle. The story is told through Paul’s flashbacks to the summer of 1973 and his experience in the present. 1973 was filled with baseball, friends and household peace when Warren was on a road trip with the Mets, the team for whom he was pitching. The present is filled with the pain of Paul saying goodbye to someone he barely knows but whose blood he carries and what lengths he goes to help ease some of the pain this man caused. The book flows seamlessly between the two perspectives and I was as excited by the dialogue as I was the description of the baseball action.
This book is fitting for anyone to read, but some of the situations and descriptions may need “unpacking” to some of the younger readers. Those of us who enjoy baseball will read a different novel, but a lack of love of The Game will not lessen one’s enjoyment of the read. While this novel is not as good as A Painted House, my personal favorite of Mr. Grisham’s books, it will be ranked as one of his better “sports” books.

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Would you enjoy a novel that imagines what would happen to a MLB rookie pitcher who throws a fatal bean ball at the behest of his manager? If so, A PITCH FOR JUSTICE an e-book examines the national debate that rages about the inherent risks of baseball and the laws of society when a criminal investigation and prosecution for homicide ensues. Please also read the review by Tampa Tribune sports writer Robert D’Angelo.

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