The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Published: September 7, 2011
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 512 pages
Source: borrowed from the library
My Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis (from GoodReads): At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended. Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners' team captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life. As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment--to oneself and to others.
My Thoughts: I love it when a book that I don't think I will like turns out to be a fantastic read. This was one of those books. I don't like baseball but it was such a minor part of the story that I didn't even think of it as a baseball book. It's a book that explores the simple acts of life that carry us through each day, how we sometimes become caught up on them until they define us. It's about relationships, about how we depend on one another and how certain relationships define who we are as people. It's about society's expectations of us in the roles that we perform and how we feel the pressure to perform those roles.
I found myself reading this book slowly because I feared when it would end. I was trying to savor every word that Chad Harbach put down and I could not get enough of his writing. It's simple, straightforward, but presented in such a way that makes you think about the world differently. His characters are real people, people that we can relate to. This is probably one of the best books that I have ever read and I cannot wait to see what Harbach puts out in the future. If you brushed this book aside because it's a sports book, forget that and go out and get it. It's a book that you will treasure forever (and I'm going out and buying myself a copy since I borrowed mine from the library!)