Eleven year-old PauI Tracey idolizes Joe Castle, the greatest-ever young player out of the Cub’s farm teams. Paul is also the son of Warren Tracey, an on again – off again – alcoholic, abusive, jealous New York pitcher. Paul dreads, yet looks forward to the day when his dad will face Joe Castle in a game; “My father versus my hero.” When Paul, who knows his father’s “old school” rules, sees cues that his dad is going to put Joe in his place, Paul knows what’s going to happen. The horror of that moment lingers with him all his life…until he hears that his estranged father is dying of cancer. That starts Paul on a journey to attempt to bring some peace to the wrong that was done in the summer of 1973.
My husband has no fond memories of Little League although he wasn’t bullied about his play after every game by an abusive dad. Reading the story was fun because the Cubs mentioned, Kessinger, Banks, Monday, were the only team I followed in all the years I’ve lived in Chicago. Using the Cubs, with their loyal, always optimistic, always disappointed fans, for this story of sports triumph and tragedy was a perfect choice. Paul’s relationship with his dad is depressing. Joe Castle’s relationship with his family and small town supporters is heart-warming. Grisham somehow brings the two together and makes the resolution feel complete…although not “right” to this reader. The story is entertaining but unsettling; except for Joe Castle and his brothers – the characters didn’t charm me.