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The art of fielding : a novel
2011
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Henry Skrimshander (Male), College student, Baseball player, Was destined for stardom until a routine throw went disastrously off course; fights against self-doubt
Guert Afflenlight (Male), College president, Father, President of Westish College; longtime bachelor; has fallen helplessly in love
Owen Dunne (Male), College student, Baseball player, Gay, Henry's roommate and teammate; caught up in a dangerous affair
Mike Schwartz (Male), Baseball coach, Captain of the Harpooner's; Henry's best friend; realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own
Pella Afflenlight (Female), Divorced, Guert's daughter; has returned home after escaping an ill-fated marriage; determined to start a new life
Genre
Fiction
Sports
Topics
Baseball players
College life
College students
Gay men
Friendship
Roommates
Ill-fated love
Divorced women
Ambition
Setting
- Midwest (U.S.)
Time Period
2000s -- 21st century
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

In this deft first novel, a baseball prodigy comes to Westish College, a small school in upper Wisconsin. Henry Skrimshander is recruited by Mike Schwartz, who plays at Westish and recognizes Henry as one of the greatest shortstops ever. Henry's roommate, the pot-smoking, gay, African American Owen Dunne, also joins the team. College president Guert Affenlight develops a passionate crush on Owen, with whom he improbably begins a clandestine relationship. Unfortunately, as Henry closes in on a fielding milestone, he loses his confidence and falls apart. Guert's long-lost daughter, who has returned to Westish after the collapse of her marriage and hooked up with Mike, tries to help Henry find his throwing arm again. Meanwhile, the ongoing affair between Owen and Guert becomes increasingly difficult to hide as the book climaxes at the Division III national championship. VERDICT Succeeding on many levels, this highly enjoyable and intelligent novel offers several coming-of-age tales set against the background of an exciting and convincing baseball drama. Harbach paints a humorous and resonant portrait of a small college community while effectively portraying the Wisconsin landscape and a lake that provides an almost mystical source of solace and renewal. This should be a popular novel. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/11.]-Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Harbach's popular debut is part baseball novel, part campus satire, part exploration of male friendship, and part warped 21st-century love story. Juggling all of this would be a heavy burden for any narrator, and while Holter Graham can't quite keep all the balls in the air, he does deliver an engaging performance. Graham handles Harbach's prose gingerly, delicately threading his way through the book's elegant descriptions of life on the baseball diamond. Additionally, Graham delivers distinct voices for Harbach's characters, including wizardly shortstop Henry Skrimshander, college president Guert Affenlight, and Affenlight's searching daughter, Pella. If something of the book's grandeur is lost in the transition to audio, Graham's narration allows listeners-from baseball novices to scholars-an opportunity to immerse themselves in the supremely alluring world of Westish College. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.<br> <br> Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners' team captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.<br> <br> As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment--to oneself and to others.
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