Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

cover image from LibraryThing
I have been accused of liking books where nothing happens - where the characters are the story and that's about it.  

Well...this is another one of those stories... and I LOVED IT!!!

Henry Skrimshander. What kind of a character do you think he is?  Henry sounds a little nerdy, a little demure, a little bit in the background. But Skrimshander makes you stop and take notice. It's not a name you skim over.

Does that describe Henry?  Maybe. Henry is a baseball fanatic.  More than that though - Henry is the perfect baseball machine. He lives and breathes fielding and really nothing else. His goal in life is to be a shortstop. It may not even matter where that shortstop is -although the Cardinals are his ultimate favorite. That is due to a book Henry has mad his own story - The Art of Fielding by Aparicio Rodriguez, the best shortstop to ever play for the Cardinals.  

Henry is discovered by an ox of a catcher - Mike Schwarz who hails from a small liberal arts college - Westish - nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Mike is the kind of contagious do-gooder who mothers everyone into being more of a person than they would be on their own. And his true love is Westish.  

There is also the president of the college, his messed up daughter who runs away from her husband and returns to live with her daddy, and Henry's very eccentric roommate.

But - mostly there is Henry. A kid who does everything right. A kid who makes his skills something most player only dream of. 

and then...he starts to think about it.

I have to tell you that reading about his baubles and brain freezes reminded me of my own swimming lessons way back in jr. high. I had taken swimming lessons for years and really loved to swim.  I could jump of the diving board and dive into the deep end with out pausing. Then one day,  I vividly remember standing on the end of the diving board absolutely frozen in fear.  It was impossible for me to jump off. I just couldn't do it again. and you know I never did. I haven't dived off an edge since. 

What in the world happens?  How can you have seasons of error free games and then not be able to toss an easy out at first base???  That is Henry's dilemma.  I have a feeling we can all relate to that!

One more thing before this review is finished. I read this book on my nook. So convenient and light weight and so disappointing.  I have discovered that books for me are a kind of commododity. As I read I am thinking about who I can recommend them to  - who I can share them with. This was no different. But, if it's on my nook it's only on my nook. I can't hand it to my baseball fanatic brother-in-law or my Cardinal fanatic nephews. I can't pick it up off my bookshelves and remember the spring vacation when I read it.  Books are more than the story for me...the physical book holds such appeal.  It's making me reconsider ebooks.

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