I bought this book on Amazon because it was on the NY Times bestseller list and because it’s about baseball.
Author Chad Harbach was praised in multiple reviews for this as his first novel, and I have to say that the praise is well-deserved. It is an extremely well-written novel. The characters are well-developed and believable. The setting is beautifully described. Dialogue is crisp and unique. From the writing standpoint, it leaves little to be desired. This is a major reason that I was able to read it in four days (which considering my work schedule and its length of 528 pages was pretty close to a miracle). It has that light and easy read that signifies the intricacy of the writing.
My only complaint–and I have to put a disclaimer on this in that it comes from the lens of a baseball fan–is that it’s not entirely a baseball story. There are moments when I feel that the story, specifically the backstories, is a little too romantic, a little too dramatic. But that is just a personal take that comes from a personal interest and obsession with baseball.
The story started out with great focus on Henry Skrimshander–being discovered by the catcher of the Harpooners, adjusting to college life, and struggling through a major slump. I appreciated the struggles of Mike Schwartz, the aforementioned catcher, as he tried to figure out what life would be after college baseball. Apart from these two major storylines, the book also wove in the tales of Guert Affenlight, president of Westish college, his daughter Pella, and Henry’s roommate Owen. And despite the lack of baseball in some instances, the collision of the storylines of these characters is masterfully done.
Overall, an amazing book. Harbach is an incredible writer, and I will definitely read whatever tale he spins next.