On The Road, Jack Kerouac

It’s rare that I read a book and am unable to finish it. On the Road

I tried to get through On the Road by Jack Kerouac, I really did. I had been recommended this book by a good friend and was told that once I picked it up, I would never be able to put it down. The problem was for me that once I picked it up, all I wanted to do was put it down! It must be that we have different genres and interests when it comes to reading because, although this book is a classic, I was unable to appreciate or enjoy it.

The premise is this: Sal Paradise, a young 20-something year-old man picks up and leaves his life to go to San Francisco for the first time. There he meets Dean Moriarty who is a young (-ish), selfish, drug addicted, wreck of a man who Sal admires above everything else. Throughout the novel Sal is taken on a wild ride of drugs, sex, and cross-country travel, meeting interesting (and stressful, frustrating and stupid [my opinion]) characters along the way. The care-free attitude of each character is something that I think would resonate with a lot of young people in the late 50’s when this book was published. Coming out of war and depression, I can imagine that freedom was sought after by many, and I think that this book encapsulates a lot of the attitudes of American youth during the 1950’s. The fun jazz music, the excitement, the freedom to travel across the nation, loving whoever whenever… That being said, I know that within the novel there was some sort of metaphor that I just didn’t understand. Now I can’t even remember if it was drugs Moriarty was addicted to or if his behaviour was just so spastic that drugs were all I could think of!

Kerouac wrote this novel based on some of his own experiences. If any part of this book is accurate then I must say that Kerouac really did lead an interesting life! And like I said earlier, I can imagine the excitement that the novel would have to many. Just not to me. Not only was the story difficult to relate to but the writing was also all over the place. The story felt recycled at times because it seemed to just repeat itself over and over with no climax or interesting section to draw me in.

I stopped reading the novel about 65% of the way in. It was impossible for me to continue and since I was on holiday, I didn’t want the book to drag me down and stop me from reading all the other novels I was looking forward to!

In 2012 the novel was adapted into a film featuring actors Garett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, and Kirsten Dunst. I haven’t watched it yet but hope that if I do watch it, I will find it more engaging than the book. If anyone has read the book or seen the movie, I’d love to hear what you think. Did I miss something when reading the book? What is the metaphor that I didn’t understand? Share with me, I’d love to hear.

Quitting On the Road was a relief. I wanted to enjoy the book! I thought that reading about men in the 1940’s traveling across the USA in a car while listening to jazz music would be a big giant win! But oh was I wrong. Next time I read a novel like this (specifically one labelled ‘beat’ or ‘counterculture’) I need to do some more research so I avoid wasting time and effort on a novel that I just don’t get.

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Trains and Lovers, Alexander McCall Smith

Trains and LoversHaven’t you ever wanted to travel anywhere by train? This desire is what prompted me to pick up McCall Smith’s 2012 novel about 4 passengers who happen to share a compartment, and subsequently, their stories with each other. Each has had a different experience with love, and the author has an adept way of drawing you into their life.

It is an easy read, and contemplative, subtle, intelligent, and enchanting. Each passenger shares a unique story of love and you kind of feel like you’re on that London-Edinburgh train with them. I loved the perfect amount of closure McCall Smith provided, and the best part is the last line; where one of the passengers, Kay, states: “Loving others…is the good thing we do in our lives.” How true.

This wont’ be one of the best books I’ve read this year, but it was thoroughly good. Not more, not less.

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, Vincent Lam

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures won the prestigious Giller Prize (for Canadian fiction) in 2006, which means I was at least acquainted with the title of this book. And tha’ts about all I knew about it. I got really excited when I realized it’s twelve stand-alone but interconnected short stories. I don’t often search out books of short stories, usually because when I do…they’re weird. And not the good kind of weird! So here’s the beauty of having no expectations – three stories into this collection, I was hooked.

Bloodletting follows four doctors (Ming, Fitzgerald, Chen, and Sri) from medical school prep, to acceptance, all the way to residency. Each story builds on the last while presenting new facts and a medical case (or several). That Lam writes about the wonderful world of medicine seems appropriate. It’s not just that the author was an ER doctor himself, and is writing what he knows. Some stories were better than others, but overall Lam’s writing is measured, careful, self-assured, oddly creative and at times, risky. This is a doctor writing about doctors, and it works.

My Standouts:

  • Winston, about a man slipping into psychosis, and Dr. Sri’s response. It raises the question of “how involved is too involved?” On one hand, Sri’s knocking at doors and playing detective goes above and beyond what’s called for or appropriate. On the other hand, you can see where everyone could have benefited more if only he’d fully crossed that line. Implicitly, I think it points to gaps in how our medical system is designed to address mental illness.
  • An Insistent Tide. Heavy on the imagery, this one follows a woman in labour. As a female reader (albeit not one who’s given birth), it struck me in a very violent and emotional way. Indeed, the birth process in this story is very violent and painful. My feminist half wants to point fingers at Lam, the male author, and demand why he insists on laying out every detail of a particularly traumatic event. At first I considered whether it was evidence of some sort of literary male violence against women. I’ve since concluded that it is not. Shock value aside, each and every one of the cases in this book is presented in the starkest of ways – it is, ultimately, what breaths believability into them.

“Bloodletting” was also a short-lived HBO mini-series.

In-keeping with its believability, Lam chose to go full-throttle and use actual medical terms. There’s a glossary at the back of the book, to help the reader if need be. In my opinion, it was helpful but not necessary to the understanding of each story. Like Grey’s Anatomy (sorry, but the comparison begs to be made!) the real drama is happening behind the scenes and not within the medicine itself.

In case sappy TV dramas haven’t already taught us, doctors are only human. Bloodletting portrays them as flawed, unheroic, weak. It’s hard to make a snap judgement about any of the characters, because no one is out-rightly presented as “good” or “bad”. Varied situations portray the same characters in vastly different lights. I’d say that’s what makes this book memorable. I recommend it to anyone who’s up for the challenge.

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cloud AtlasWhat a story this was! There are many thoughts to compile for a book like this, so after giving them a few weeks to figure themselves out, I think we may have a coherent book report on our hands. No major plot details will be related here, so read on!

I’d never heard of David Mitchell before, though his previous books have found critical acclaim. I was hooked once I saw the movie trailer for Cloud Atlas, and knew this was going to be a book I would love.

Adam EwingThis unconventional novel follows six main characters through different eras in the past, present and future. Beginning in 1850 with Adam Ewing who is sailing across the Pacific Ocean, we have a tone that seems very Melville. Through his diary entries we learn that Ewing is a good, Christian man who falls very ill on his journey home, during which he befriends a doctor and a former Moriori slave.

Robert FrobisherThe next chapter introduces young Robert Frobisher in 1931. A musical prodigy, he leaves his lover, Sixsmith, in London to travel to Belgium to study under a famous composer. Pretentious, despite his struggles and disinheritance, Frobisher works to find recognition and success, as we see in his self-absorbed letters to Sixsmith.

Luisa ReyThe story really begins to pick up in the next chapter, Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, which follows Rey, a journalist in 1970’s California. Read like a novel within a novel (and a lot like Grisham), Rey believes she is on her way to uncovering a good scoop about a nearby nuclear power plant, which she is pointed to buy a now-aged Sixsmith. The plot has some great action, and Rey is easy to cheer for. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday – Most Intimidating Novels

Hey, it’s Tuesday and you know what that means! The topic suggested by The Broke and Bookish today was supposed to be “Top Ten Books/Authors I’m Thankful For”, but I have a hunch that’s only because of American thanksgiving. Seeing as I’m a Canadian living in South Korea (meaning I’ve already celebrated thanksgiving twice this year), I’m gonna go ahead and skip the thankfulness thing. Enough of that! This post is all about my greatest literary fears and, as such, will be characterized by much whinging. Ladies and Gentlemen, my Ten Most Intimidating Novels (in no particular order, since they’re all equally terrifying):

This is gonna be good…

Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)

Kaite suggested this one and I have to agree. It’s one thing to watch a movie or a musical based on the book, but it’s quite another thing to read the book. It’s a real fatty! Plus, it’s all there in the title; the story may be beautiful and touching and have a kind of happy ending, but the bulk of it is pretty miserable.

Even Brad Pitt couldn’t save the epic flop “Troy”. But he sure is pretty.

The Iliad and The Odyssey (Homer)

Technically this is two separate works, and technically they are epic poems, not novels. Still, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” top the list of Things I Have No Desire To Read Whatsoever. This is based mostly on the fact that I like my Homers yellow and stupid, and Achilles doesn’t fit the bill on either account. Plus, poetry. Blech.

Moby Dick (Herman Melville)

“Call me Ishmael.” First sentence. Bam.

That is probably about as far as I’ll ever get in my acquaintance with this novel about a single-legged sea captain bent on avenging a ferocious white sperm whale. Why? Not only is this book huge, but to directly quote Kaite (as written in an email she sent to me months ago, and which I am now using without her permission), “This book is also boring. I have no idea why people like it so much.” The last I checked she was making her way through it little bits at a time. I’ll be the first to point out that Kaite and I don’t always agree on literature, but that’s testimony enough for me.

War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)

Now, my dad is a slow reader, but this took him about a year to get through. If that isn’t intimidating enough, it’s also got multiple volumes, endless aristocratic characters with long Russian names, and perhaps the broadest scope any novel in history has ever dared to take on. You have to applaud these crazy Russian novelists for their patience in writing these sagas, though. But maybe I’ll read it one day. Like, if I’m on my deathbed and there’s no one to talk to and nothing to do but die slowly, and the only thing around is a single copy of War and Peace. Then maybe.

Based on “Heart of Darkness” – the goriest movie ever?

Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)

This one is a novella, which proves that size isn’t everything when we’re talking intimidation. And actually, I already read Heart of Darkness back in eleventh grade. All I remember was that the frame narrative (story within a story) got me really confused, and I was barely able to understand what was happening the whole time. There was something about a boat, Africa, and a guy named Marlow. To make matters worse, I have the distinct feeling that it was an interesting story, and I missed out. All this adds up to my thinking I should give it another go. But I’m still scared! It’s not the violence, or the old language, or the narrative, or the fact that this remains one of the most dissected stories ever – it’s all those things together that make me nervous to reattempt it.

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

I’ve already used this blog to lament my doomed relationship with this Gothic romance. Why do I keep believing I’ll love it? Because I love a little doom and gloom occasionally  and I love romance. But  somehow I’m just not loving Jane. I always end up walking away. Yes, I know the beginning sentence of this one quite well, too. “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” Three times and that still wasn’t an indication that it wouldn’t be any more riveting the next time…

The tagline for this 1939 adaptation is a real winner!

Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)

I am tackling this one just now. I’m telling you – it’s still intimidating even as I’m reading it. Old writing style, three generations of Heathcliffs, and all the general Brontë broodiness does not add up to light reading. But several trusted readers in my life have promised that it’s worth the initial slog, so I’m trusting them.

On another note, what’s with these Brontë girls and their fetish for jerky men? At least I’m not the only one who noticed a pattern here….

Paradife Loft! A Poem in Ten Bookf!

Paradise Lost (John Milton)

This poem goes on for about ten to twelve “books” or sections (depending on what edition you have), which explains why Old Milty went blind writing it. He wanted to “justify the ways of God to man” which, I bet, is no easy task. Again, this is something I’ve read excerpts from. While I admire the work as a whole, and the genius behind it, I could never have the patience to read the whole thing. My twelfth grade English teacher always said she would once she retired. I’d love to know if she has.

Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri)

I suppose when one sets off to write about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, one can only do so in an epic poem. I’m sorry to put another one on this list, but Dante definitely deserves a spot. I don’t have much more to say except…poetry. Blech.

The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien)

I read The Hobbit and loved it. So why should the next (three) parts of a continuing story be so difficult for me? Maybe it’s because Tolkien suffers from the same wordiness I sometimes do, taking twenty pages to describe a single pine tree, or the eating and drinking habits of Harfoots. That aside, I’m determined to read these one day. They’re about the most respected and beloved fantasy novels of all time, so that’s gotta be a good thing.

Disclaimers and Endnotes (Because I’m Wordy and I Like Typing):

  1. I’m not against poetry. When I say “blech” it’s really just to illustrate my lack of patience with it. To be sure, I’m really quite fond of the Romantics, who only had to stand by a pond or notice a hangnail to appreciate the Sublime. (Shelley and Keats are my men!) All I’m saying is there’s a reason this site is called “A Novel Thing”.
  2. This post puts me in direct risk of comments like, “You’re wrong about War and Peace!” If that’s you, know that I realize you’re probably right. All the above books are called classics for a reason, and, as such, are probably all objectively good (one some level). Even so, “the classics” are not a homogeneous genre and still represent themes and writing styles as varied as those represented in today’s fiction. No one can be expected to like everything, so please, take what I say with a grain of salt.
  3. Kaite is the craziest reader I know. As of November 4th, she’d read 89 books this year (another fact I stole from an email without her permission). So don’t hold it against her that she finds Moby Dick boring. If you were aiming for ten books a month and only had so much time, you’d probably think the same thing!

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling: Part Two

Well, I did it! The book is done, and my opinion of the novel is much less harsh than it once was. I have gotten over my shock, and am ready to treat the story like any other.  I’ll begin by addressing my previous critiques:

  1. The Adultness of the Book:

So this was, of course, mostly me just being a little shocked by Rowling’s new story. I knew it wasn’t going to be kids going to a boarding school or anything, but it was just so different. It’s still a bit weird for me. I stick by my line that I wouldn’t have read it (story-wise) if it wasn’t by Rowling, a point I’ll get into a bit later. I wasn’t as repulsed by the ‘ugly boobs’-type stuff, but that was both because I was more accustomed to it, and I don’t think it occurred as much as in the first five chapters, overall. 

2. The Book is Boring:

It really does have quite a boring premise, but this is definitely the point I’ll be changing my tune on the most. Even at the end of five chapters I kind of have to admit I was curious as to what would happen to the characters, though my curiosity did not meet any of the levels it is usually at for other books. I got to know all the characters better, was intrigued by the complex way they were interconnected, and wanted to see how they all ended up. I still don’t care about small-town politics, but I like the idea that books don’t have to have crazy, exciting storylines in order to draw readers. That being said, I missed Rowling’s comedic talent and lightheartedness, which, I admit, would not fit into this story at all.

3. The Depressing Tone of the Novel:

This is the point I absolutely do not budge on. I previously pointed out how miserable the story was so far, and unfortunately the book definitely continues along that line. All the marriages are unhappy, parents neglect their kids, and the kids aren’t all that nice either. This is really not the kind of book I usually like to read – life is too short, and why spend any of it unhappy? But my other shoulder is telling me that important moments in life can happen in gloomy circumstances such as these, so it’s important to read about them sometimes. Well I think I’ve filled my sadness quota for the rest of October, and am content to go back to the land of Harry Potter.

Overall I’m glad I read the book. Rowling’s ability to write is clearly not limited to the Harry Potter series, and I’m sure I’ll find myself reading all of her subsequent novels. The end nicely sums up all the stories, but definitely falls short of a happy finish – which really suits the book, though. It makes me sad that Rowling had to write such an unhappy story, but hey, she’s got to break out of her mold somehow, I guess. I wouldn’t recommend this book to the faint of heart. It’s a complex, unhappy, yet critical story about ordinary life and will not be a quick read. It’d probably pull a 5/10 from me, mostly because, though it was miserable and depressing, it had an important story and when you really get down to it, was written by a great, talented author.

Click here for Part One of the review.

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling: Part One

Oh my goodness J.K. Rowling has a new book!!!!!!! is the only proper way to begin this piece. I actually held out for about two days before I bought it, partly hoping that it could be a good item for my Christmas list (ha! like I would’ve lasted that long), and partly trying to be one of those people who doesn’t spend too much money on books for a little while. Well it was a noble attempt, right? Actually, I had also heard how expensive it was (like $26!) and maybe part of me was rebelling the unnecessarily high cost. But a little trip to good ole Costco solved that problem. I mean $19.99 is so much better than $26, right?

And moving on. So Rowling’s new book. I’ve just finished the first five chapters and, I’ve gotta say, and with a great deal of pain: I’m not sure I’d keep reading it if it wasn’t written by her. There! I’ve said it. I’ve defiled the provider of Harry Potter! I will now have to repent in some way…perhaps with finishing the rest of her book.

Granted it has only been five chapters. If I can say one good thing, it is that I think the plot will go somewhere. Maybe a second good thing would be that none of her characters seem to follow any cliched role I can think of. But now for the bad things. Well first I guess would be that it’s an adult book. I knew this going in of course, but was wholly unprepared for the reality. So far there’s been the occasional swear (sidenote – seeing Rowling swear in her writing is pretty distracting and off-putting, though I wouldn’t normally have a problem with it if it were any other author) and these very awkward sexual comments that just seem so out of place. Like describing somebody’s ugly boobs. It’s so weird I don’t even know how to comment on it. Okay let’s move on again, please!

So bad point number two would be that it’s boring. This guy dies and townsfolk of all kinds are reacting to it. Twenty-six pages in and I’ve lost track of the myriad of characters already introduced, and really not interested in their small-town politics. Like I mentioned, it kind of seems like it could perhaps become interesting later on, but maybe that’s too much to wish for.

My next beef is the tone of the novel. Everything so far is set up to be incredibly depressing. This guy is repulsed by this woman he’s sleeping with; A teenager has a bad relationship with his father; People rejoice in the death of a town leader; This guy dies and leaves his four children fatherless! J.K. Rowling what have you done! What about the Weasleys and Dumbledore and…and…and THIS IS CRAZY! MOVING ON!

Lastly, I’m disappointed with just about everything. Rowling has had my greatest praise and I suppose the bar was so high, the fall has been catastrophic. She has every right to branch out into new areas, but it’s as if a completely different author has written this. Every once in a while it seems like there’s a typo, but I’m not sure if maybe it’s just a stupid way of saying something. There’s also some oddly-phrased lines like “She was perennially acquiver to detect condescension…” (pg 16). I just don’t know what to make of it anymore! Also, the book cover is ugly.

Well I’ve done it. My first scathing review, and on the J.K. Rowling of all people. But there is a chance at redemption  Perhaps Part Two won’t be as painful to write. Now back to my chore.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

I’d been meaning to read this book since high school, when my English teacher Ms. Grenier read us a few hilarious excerpts in class. I even got so far as taking the book out of the library not once, but twice. Still, it took me upwards of six years to get around to The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. All I can say is, I’m glad I’ve finally arrived.

Mma Precious Ramotswe is a smart, shrewd, modern and secretly hilarious Motswana (i.e. Botswanan) woman who decides to open a detective agency. Following are the episodic happenings related to her line of work. Sometimes they are funny; sometimes they are sad. Every few chapters presents a new case, together with the development of further overarching story lines that help bring the whole thing together. The narrative jumps around a bit, from this person’s point of view to that – but mostly we stay put in Mma Ramotswe’s mind and memories. This is no easy feat, considering the writer is an old Scottish man who is actually a professor of medical law! (Granted, he was born in Africa and obviously has a soft spot for it.) The fact that McCall Smith was able to get inside an African woman’s head and relay her voice so clearly speaks to his amazing talent. Add to that his perfect capture of the sadness/beauty dichotomy that is Africa, and you have the perfect beginner’s introduction to African literature.

So what else can I say without giving away too much of the mysteries? How about I hook you with a few quotes, the way I was first convinced I should get into this fun series? I only hope, if you’re interested, that it doesn’t take you six years to pick it up.

About Africa:

The book even spawned a 2008 HBO television spinoff!

“There was so much suffering in Africa that it was tempting just to shrug your shoulders and walk away. But you can’t do that, she thought. You just can’t.”

“Then, just past the Mochundi turnoff, the sun came up, rising over the wide plains that stretched away towards the course of the Limpopo. Suddenly it was there, smiling on Africa, a slither of golden red ball, inching up, floating effortlessly free of the horizon to dispel the last wisps of morning mist.”

About the “big problems of life”:

“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you reason for going on. Pumpkin.”

And one last thing to make you laugh:

“She felt terribly sorry for people who suffered from constipation, and she knew that there were many who did. There were probably enough of them to form a political party – with a chance of government perhaps – but what would such a party do if it was in power? Nothing, she imagined. It would try to pass legislation, but would fail.”

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

Any combination of words I use to describe how much I love this book will be vastly insufficient. That said, I will try my best.

Though this novel technically falls into the category of “Teen Fiction”, it is definitely a book for anyone. One of the side effects of humanness is a struggle to understand our own consciousness, and our relationship with the universe around us. Occasionally we question what sort of mark we will leave on the world once we’ve left it. Usually it’s the type of question one asks when they’re face-to-face with their own imminent death.

Such is the case for Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old living with/dying of cancer. No stranger to big existential questions, Hazel does face a new dilemma when she meets a “gorgeous plot twist”, Augustus Waters (that’s from the book flap, not me). She starts to question – really question – her right to take other people down in her battle against cancer. Though she’s bound to be the victim, there are also innocent bystanders who will be wounded. With humour and truth, Hazel slowly starts to realize that leaving a mark on this world is inevitable – it doesn’t necessarily mean dying triumphantly or being remembered by many people for hundreds of years – it means scarring those who loved you deeply, when they’re forced to face life without you.

That’s all I have to say before I wrap up this review with a few more words that aren’t mine. I’ll just say this: The Fault in Our Stars is the best book I’ve read all year, and possibly ever (at least that’s how I feel at the time of writing this, when the tears are still sitting, dry on my face). Literary-speaking, it is perfect in every way; the right amount of laugh-out-loud funny mixed with certain turns of phrase so beautiful that I had to read them over 3 or 4 times. This is certainly not a book to be taken lightly (though you will probably finish it in a day or two!). I highly recommend it.

Other thoughts about The Fault in Our Stars:

John Green writes incredible, honest truths about the secret, weird hearts of human beings. He makes me laugh and gasp at the beauty of a sentence or the twist of a tale. He is one of the best writers alive and I am seething with envy of his talent.

–E. Lockhart, award-winning author, as quoted on the cover of The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is one of the rare books that is able to make you laugh while sobbing throughout the book. It is written with such voice that it is impossible not to relate to Hazel even if it might seem her life to is incredibly different. The writing is beautiful and the characters become your friends. This is a definite must read for anyone willing to be challenged by this moving story.

–Online comment from Elbereth (Seattle Public Library)

My mother was a reader. She was also the victim of a very aggressive and pernicious brain cancer. In the end, she lost the ability to speak. Every year she picked out books for Christmas and birthdays. After her death we found that year’s collection on her shelf in her closet. Those books were her last words to me. Picked out for me and my kids: “Bridge to Terabithia” , Katherine Paterson’s Newbery award winner from 1978. Twenty years later, I have found another book just as wonderful, just a poignant, just as true. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.

–Online comment from canary35 (Whatcom County Library System)

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