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.
Schwartz didn't notice the kid during the game. Or rather, he noticed only what everyone else did - that he was the smallest player on the field, a scrawny novelty of a shortstop, quick of foot but weak with the bat. Only after the game ended, when the kid returned to the sun-scorched diamond to take extra grounders, did Schwartz see the grace that shaped Henry's every move.
This was the second Sunday in August, just before Schwartz's sophomore year at Westish College, that little school in the crook of the baseball glove that is Wisconsin. He'd spent the summer in Chicago, his hometown, and his Legion team had just beaten a bunch of farmboys from South Dakota in the semifinals of a no-name tournament. The few dozen people in the stands clapped mildly as the last out was made. Schwartz, who'd been weak with heat cramps all day, tossed his catcher's mask aside and hazarded a few unsteady steps toward the dugout. Dizzy, he gave up and sank down to the dirt, let his huge ...
When we're children, many of us are raised to believe we can be anything we want when we grow up if we work hard enough. There comes a time in most of our lives though, when we realize we just don't have the talent to be a famous writer, professional basketball player, concert violinist or [insert your dream here]; and that maturing (or dose of reality!) often occurs near the end of one's college years. In The Art of Fielding, first-time author Chad Harbach explores this evolution through the lives of five characters, and his depiction of the process feels so dead-on that it will almost certainly resonate with a great many readers. Please note: This is not a book about baseball; it's about finding one's true self, about discovering what one is meant to do with one's life (which may or may not align with one's dreams), and about the adaptations that must be made when life's path doesn't lead where one hoped.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1085 words).
Though The Art of Fielding is not about baseball per se, there are still large segments of the book devoted to the game. It is used as a metaphor for the human condition and is the frame around which the story is built.
Baseball has been referred to as the "national pastime" of the United States since the mid-1800s, though it is difficult to trace the exact origins of the sport. There are written references to the game that go back to the 1700s - most famously in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1796) - although a French illustration dating from the 14th century depicts a similar ball and bat game. Most sources agree that baseball was imported to the U.S. by English and Irish immigrants as a game called "rounders" (also called "...
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