Review: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 512
Format: Ebook

Summary: The Art of Fielding is about five characters–Henry, Schwartz, Owen, Affenlight, and Pella–and how their lives and interactions dance in a tangled web together. The story focuses on Henry’s path as a shortstop who gets recruited by Mike Schwartz to Westish College in Michigan. After three years of practice and extreme training under the heavy influence of Schwartz, Henry becomes a star on the field. His dreams skyrocket until one bad throw rattles all five intertwined lives and sends Henry into a downward spiral out of the spotlight.

Review: First, I’d like to emphasize that while this book has lots of baseball and seems to be based around it–a bonus for me because I love baseball and my team is having a horrible season–it is a character-driven novel and anyone can read it without losing anything from the baseball parts. Harbach describes the game very eloquently, one of the many aspects of this books that I enjoyed, but he also writes five very complete, dimensional characters who envelope the reader in their lives and affairs.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the novel. Harbach builds Henry up into a hero-like character, young and fresh with potential, hope, and enthusiasm for baseball. I was inclined to adore Henry from the beginning. Henry’s fall from grace is heart-breaking and despite some of his more questionable actions, I couldn’t help but still root for him the entire book. I also enjoyed Pella’s character, a strong young woman trying to reclaim the youth she left behind when she dropped out of high school, got married, and moved to San Francisco. Her anti-rebellion back into college and into her father’s house makes for a refreshing character who is desperate to just be a normal college kid. As a character story, it was well-done. Each character has their strengths and flaws, deep personalities that make them all distinct and wonderful to read about.

Now let’s talk about what I didn’t like: pretty much the entire second half of the story. The middle felt long and drawn-out. Some of the characters side-stepped their carefully-constructed personalities in very uncharacteristic ways. There were a good 100 or so pages that simply could have been omitted. I almost lost my interest which is unfortunate because I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. While the characters remained relatively strong, I lost interest in the story. Everything got very messy very quickly and there was no relief for the reader past the half-way point, no hope to cling on to and this is too long of a book to be left stranded like that.

The other thing I didn’t like was the ending. I absolutely hatted the ending. It felt cheap and I finished the book feeling like I had been gypped. After investing many hours into reading a long, drawn-out book, the end felt like a cop-out. Overall, I was a little disappointed by this book. I wanted to like it so badly and 200 pages in, I would have given it 5 stars in a heartbeat. The ending really left a bad taste in my mouth. I will explain more why past the spoiler barrier so continue at your own risk.

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Friday Reads (& First Post!)

Happy Friday, Readers! Welcome to my brand-new blog and the first edition of Friday Reads. Starting a reading blog on a Friday sure makes coming up with a first post easier.

I look forward to going home from the office later today and curling up with a good book, some peace and quiet, and the knowledge that the weekend has begun. Here’s what I’m reading now and hope to read in the future.

Currently Reading: “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach

So much of one’s life was spent reading; it made sense not to do it alone.

Goodreads | Amazon

Before I bought this book, I had heard quite a lot about it. I contemplated the meaning of the title for quite some time sans research, missing the perhaps-obvious clue of the typography. It wasn’t until I began reading that I realized it was about baseball, and if I had known that, I probably would have picked it up a lot sooner.

The fact is, I love literature and I love baseball so for me, this is a sublime combination. I remember reading the Baseball Card Adventures series by Dan Gutman in elementary school, but I wasn’t into baseball then and haven’t picked up a baseball-related book since. Since my team has been in a long-running rut this season, this is the perfect book to get my baseball kicks.

I’m about a fifth of the way through (it’s a dense 500+ page-turner) and I love it. Something about the way Harbach writes baseball action makes it so visual and real. Trust me when I say, you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it. It’s also about love, literature, friendship, and escaping parental expectations in college.

To Read: The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

Between A Song of Ice and Fire, Divergent, and the MaddAddam trilogy, I really don’t need to be picking up another hefty (incomplete) fantasy series. However, I recently (as in yesterday) discovered, they’re making movies. The book reviews have been mixed at best, but something about a literary-film conversion makes me feel like I just need to read the book. While it’s unlikely I’ll get to it before the release, it’s getting added to my to-read pile. Due to the inconsistancy of reviews, give me your feedback. Is the series worth a read?

That’s my first post, folks. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what make up your Friday Reads.