Whether you love baseball or not, “The Art of Fielding” is a great summer read.
It follows Henry Skrimshander, a young short stop who lands a spot on the baseball team of a small college in Wisconsin named Westish. As the season gets into swing, Henry is plagued by self doubt, the college’s professor, Guert Affenlight, finds himself falling in love with a male student and the baseball team’s mentor, Mike Swartz, realizes he is losing himself in order to help others. The reader goes with them through wins, losses, heartbreak and all the confusion so easily found among college students. They grow into adults and must decide what the future holds for them when the season — and college — ends.
It’s a perfect story. Poignant and real. Nothing is overdone, and I enjoyed how relatable the characters were. They were like someone you would know, not caricatures of what the modern American should be.
Harbach must love literature, because the novel is full of literary allusions — from poetry to the school’s connection with Herman Melville and the influence “Moby Dick” has on much of the book.
And, of course, I loved the baseball aspect. What better way to tell a novel of American life then with baseball set as the background?
It’s Harbach’s debut novel, and though not without some failings — it can be slow moving in some parts and has a predictable plot twist toward the end — it is a wonderful way for him to carve a spot in the literary world.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a simple, enjoyable summer read.
Four stars out of five