The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach

Well, my peeps, it has been awhile. I can explain away my absence (partially) with my husband’s purchase of Diablo 3 and subsequent hogging of the computer. But it is now 2am which is Kaite time. The computer is all mine.

I picked this week’s’ book mostly because it is the best book of the year.* Quite the accomplishment! I’ve never read the best book of the year before! Also it’s about baseball, a favorite pastime of mine. The novel is author Chad Harbach’s first book (which took him ten years to write), and he has surprised many with his talents. Really, I actually had to pass through eight pages of praise in order to begin reading. But I’m happy to say that it wasn’t all for nothing. The Art of Fielding was a great read, though if it’s the best book of the year, then 2011 couldn’t have been all that hot.

Don’t let me give you the wrong impression. Within the first few pages I knew I was safely buckled in for a great story. Set at a small Midwestern college, we follow four main characters; Henry, a superstar shortstop playing on the college’s team, Mike Schwartz, his teammate and coach, Guert Affenlight, the college president and Pella, his prodigal daughter. The characters intertwine (shock!) and spend the book finding themselves while at a crossroads in their life. Henry is on the verge of making it big when he suddenly falls apart. Schwartz realizes that he has wasted his own life helping others succeed, and twenty-three-year-old Pella has just left her husband to return to the path her life should have taken. Her single father falls in love, to his own surprise, but of course it is no simple relationship.

Though a long book, the strong cast of characters create many depths while Harbach composes a perfect flow that doesn’t take long to get through. That was actually one of my favorite parts of this book- you feel that despite the chaos surrounding everyone, nothing is strained. It is just life, with it’s wide range of emotions.

At the heart of the book is baseball. You don’t have to be a ball player in order to understand its intricacy and artistry, as it’s not so much about the game as the act of playing it. The author also employs references and illusions to many literary works, especially Melville. All in all he invokes his passion for baseball and literature to create a moving story

I wasn’t jumping out of my seat for this one, but it was refreshing to find a new novel that is so well-written. While it covered many crucial points in life and made me care for the characters, it stopped a little short of being epic. But really, I was only expecting the best book of the year.

*According to the New York Times Book Review

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2 responses

  1. Hmmm. I’ve never read a book about baseball. I can get past that though but really, it makes me laugh to think that ONE person from the NY Times is able to make such a grand overview of all books EVER published in order to state that this is the best one.

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