As I'm sure many of you are all aware of now, The Art of Fielding has been THE book to read over 2012, but with a readership that is represented predominantly by females, I wasn't sure if anyone would even read the review of a 'baseball book.' The first thing I want to do is to erase the fear that you have to be a sports fan, (or worse, a man, eek!) to enjoy this book. While it's true that this book will appeal to the sports fans, it's so much more. If anything I could say is that baseball is merely the lens in which Chad Harbach, (the author,) uses to tell the age old story of growing up, of seeking perfection, of figuring out who you are and what you may become." Are you enticed yet? I'll continue.
The Art of Fielding begins and ends at the fictional Westish College located "in the baseball glove that is Wisconsin" on the banks of Lake Michigan. It follows the college career of Henry Skrimshanker a social awkward and unassuming 17 year old South Dakotan who turns out to be a remarkably gifted shortstop destined for the pros. As Skrimshanker's edges closer to ties the collegiate record for errorless games and professional scouts begin to take notice, an errant throw goes off course and injures his teammate and roommate, Owen, Henry's game and even his own concept of his self worth crumbles. We then see how the consequences of Henry's own struggle with self doubt ripple out to affect his teammates, including college president Guert Affenlight, longtime bachelor who has fallen dangerously in love with a student, Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate and teammate caught in an unexpected affair, Affenlight's daughter Pella, who has returned to Westish after a failed marriage, and Henry's best friend and mentor, team captain Mike Schwartz.
I can't tell you how engrossed in this book I was, and how much I truly enjoyed it. For the baseball fan in me, it was a wonderful look at my favorite sport, but really the story goes so much deeper. It's about friendship, love,, about growing up and making the hard decisions beyond sport and college and youth as to what you will truly do about your life, and mostly, about the ambition to achieve greatness and it's limits.