The best part of a holiday is often the downtime that comes from every store being closed, the office lights off and kids engrossed in any activity that doesn’t involve you running a carpool. So I was blessed with a block of time to sit and finish another Pulitzer possibility, “The Art of Fielding.”
Author Chad Harbach is not a rookie writer, but the book is his debut effort as a novelist. Way to go, Chad. Now everything you write is going to have to live up to this, one of the best books of the year—or several years. Centered around life at Wetish College, a smallish school set somewhere along the shore of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, Harbach weaves the tales of a young Henry Skrimshander, Mike Schwartz, Pella and Guert Affenlight and Owen Dunne. Skrimshander appears to be the next Great One on the baseball field, and teammate Schwartz has taken it upon himself to mentor the lad. Pella is the prodigal daughter returning to her father’s life, escaping her controlling husband and landing on the campus of Wetish where Daddy-O is the prez. And Owen? Owen is Henry’s roommate and the object of Guert’s affections. So much for simple.
I loved the book, but I can see where if you don’t appreciate baseball, or at least what it’s like to love something so much it swallows you whole, some of the story may be lost on you. The characters are flawed, engaging and easy to get to know and love. I had to stop myself from racing through the novel just to make sure Henry is OK when I reached the end. There’s no need to brace yourself for a long and difficult commitment—you’ll be engrossed after the first few pages and most likely will find yourself carting the book with you everywhere until you finish it, which won’t take long. Enjoy, and long live the Skrimmer!
The Art of Fielding