Book Review: Chad Harbach – The Art of Fielding

The Art of FieldingMy mom never let us miss school unless we were sick. So, you can imagine my surprise back in the early 80s when she decided we’d start a new tradition. Each year, she decided, I’d take a day off from school, she’d take a day off from work, and we’d go to see the Academy Award winning film. Add a little culture to our lives, and all that.

Our first outing was to see Chariots of Fire. We were very excited. Shared a popcorn and a coke, and sat down to get cultured. We liked it! Pretty music! Running! Beaches! But on the way home we both felt there was probably something more to it than that, something we missed as it whizzed over our un-worldly heads!

We gave that tradition up.

I felt the same way after reading Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely book, beautifully written, and I had a soft spot for each and every character. I miss them already, and wish a sequel was in the works. But I can’t help thinking I might have missed something. Maybe I’m wrong. But I feel like I just watched Chariots of Fire, humming the beautiful music and longing for a run on the beach!

I’ve read some reviews saying this isn’t a baseball book. It is. You can enjoy it even if you know nothing about the sport, but you’ll like it a lot more if you have some familiarity. Beyond the baseball, the story surrounds five people whose lives are intertwined at (fictional) Westish College in Wisconsin. Henry is a baseball genius, until an uncharacteristic loss of confidence changes the course of his life. Owen, unabashedly gay, begins an affair that may have unintended consequences. Schwartzy gives up his dreams for someone else’s. Guert is getting a late start on finding himself. And Pella just needs to heal. I love them all, their good points and their bad points, as they struggle and grow.

Whatever I may have missed, didn’t really matter. I loved it anyway. I think it qualifies as “literature” whereas I usually read “stories.” But it sure was a great story!

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