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A Game of Throws

Pitch Perfect

In an ideal world, for every throw there is a catch.

Yet we all know that human life is compounded of some successes and countless errors. We treasure the successes. We brood on the errors. And in the brooding a world of trouble breeds.

Readers who casually pick up Chad Harbach’s first novel, The Art of Fielding expecting it to be another baseball story about the struggle for greatness and its cost will not be disappointed. But this remarkable novel portrays a rich and complex emotional terrain that extends far beyond the diamond.

Through his careful, compassionate, and at times comic depiction of five characters whose lives become intimately connected at a small Wisconsin college, Harbach has created a work which transcends the sports novel genre, while at the same time remaining true to the love of the game which resonates throughout the book like the heartbeat of a team.

The story of Henry Skrimshander, a gifted shortstop whose uncanny fielding ability raises expectations in all who encounter him, The Art of Fielding is both an examination of the way we try to become the people we want to be, and how one slip, one bad throw, can change everything.

Set on the shore of Lake Michigan, the novel is enriched by a nautical theme anchored in a bit of Melville worship which works much better than you might think. As the Harpooners go through the long baseball season, we feel their pain, we share their hope, and ultimately, we come to believe in the redemptive power of the struggle itself.

The important thing is not whether you win, or lose, or make a great play or an error. It’s being in the game.

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