Johnny's Reviews > Playing for Pizza

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
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's review
Feb 24, 2008

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bookshelves: light-novels

Until Skipping Christmas, I had thought that Grisham was completely locked into formula novels. I had loved The Firm, The Pelican Brief (even though it is so often criticized for its improbability), The Client, and The Rainmaker, but thought The Runaway Jury was stale and contrived. Then, I read Skipping Christmas and The King of Torts. I suddenly realized that everything wasn't formula for Grisham. Recently, I read The Last Juror and thought it was a delightful book, even if the mystery angle was pretty light. The Brethren and The Broker played the CIA angle beautifully, though I found the latter much more satisfying than the very predictable former thriller.

I realize that is all purely personal opinion and has no critical merit, but I promise to comment with more detail on those books in the future. For now, let me just state that Playing for Pizza is yet more evidence to this reader that Grisham is not a "One Trick Pony." Those looking for a thriller, courtroom drama, or a mystery will not be interested in Playing for Pizza. Those expecting comedic moments equivalent to Skipping Christmas will not receive a present. However, Playing for Pizza is a delightful romp through the atmosphere of Northern Italy (Parma, to be precise).

The protagonist, Rick Dockery, is an injured, washed-up, and much maligned NFL back-up quarterback who finds himself playing on a European team. He quickly discovers that most of the team plays for pizza, pride, and the love of the game. At times, you want to laugh at the way circumstances work against poor Rick and at other times, you want to kick him in the rear for his narcissistic lifestyle.

The book has predictable elements and occasional surprises. By the end of the book, I was definitely believing Rick's character and experiencing very affectionate feelings for his Italian teammates. I didn't expect everything in the denouement, but it was credible.

Playing for Pizza is not only fun for people who like football and can only imagine how "American Football" looks to the folks in "soccer" land, but it has chapters which leave you drooling over four course meals and wine recommendations. This book, for me, was the literary equivalent of my favorite food movie, Big Night.
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