The Art of Fielding
by Chad Harbach
2011 Little, Brown, and Company
I loved this book! Sometimes, timing can be everything and I am sure that affected my thoughts on the book. "The Art of Fielding" is a beautifully written book that loves baseball. Reading it while the Texas Rangers are making a run at the World Series just made me like it that much more. It has the feeling of a John Irving novel, which is always a good thing for me.
It takes place at a small college in Northern Wisconsin that becomes as much of a character as the people in this story. The main character is Henry, the team's star shortstop and the descriptions of how he plays the game highlight what I love most about baseball. The ballet of a great fielder and the camaraderie and teamwork that makes the player work as one.
One day in the middle of a game, Henry seriously injures his roommate and teammate with an errant throw to first. This destroys his confidence and damages both his personal life and his ability to play the game. As they book starts, you believe that it will just be the story of Henry, but as you get into it, other fascinating characters are introduced and I ended up caring about what happened to all of them as much as I did Henry.
This book is so much more then just a baseball book. The New York Times says; "The Art of Fielding is not only a wonderful baseball novel--it zooms immediately into the pantheon of classics, alongside The Natural by Bernard Malamud and The Southpaw by Mark Harris--but it's also a magical, melancholy story about friendship and the coming of age that marks the debut of an immensely talented writer...Mr. Harbach has the rare abilities to write with earnest, deeply felt emotion without ever veering into sentimentality, and to create quirky, vulnerable and fully imagined characters who instantly take up residence in our hearts and minds."