Review: The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding
The Art of Fielding
By Chad Harbach
(Back Bay Books, Paperback, 9780316126670, May 2012, 544pp.)

The Short of It:

To say this debut novel is about baseball, would be a gross understatement.

The Rest Of It:

Henry Skrimshander is a quiet boy with one heck of an arm. Destined for greatness, he is invited to play baseball at Westish College but after one wild pitch and the injury that resulted from it, he becomes paralyzed with fear every time he steps onto the field. Also affected are the four people he’s gotten to know while playing ball. Guert Affenlight, the college president, his daughter Pella, and his teammates Owen Dunne and Mike Schwartz are all tangled up in Henry’s world as they struggle to find their place.

I received a review copy of this long before it was released for publication, but as gorgeous as that copy was, it did not survive when my daughter accidentally dumped a bottle of water onto it while in the car. And did I mention that she didn’t tell me about it until three days later when it was a pulpy mess? Yeah. I tried to dry it out but the pages were stuck together and then when I checked it out from the library, I had to return it unread because I never could find the right time to read it. I mean, it was about baseball right?

Yes, and no. The Art of Fielding centers around baseball, but there is more to the story than just playing ball. It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of readers avoided this one because they thought they’d have to know a lot about the game to follow it (you don’t) or that it would be about manly men with attitudes and a bone to pick (it’s not). It’s a tender, sweet story about friendship and love and figuring out where you fit in. As Henry attempts to find his way, the others come along for the ride and figure out things about themselves that perhaps they’d never be forced to face had Henry not entered the scene.

I really enjoyed this one and reading it now, after it’s been out for so long, I have to say that it never felt like a debut novel to me. Harbach’s grasp of his characters is swift and self-assured and the writing is straight-forward and alive. It’s incredibly readable and I think that’s important to note given its length (500+ pages). It’s one of those feel-good novels that you seek out every now and then and we all need more of those. I highly recommend it.

Note from Ti: I also listened to a portion of this on audio and it was also very good.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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29 thoughts on “Review: The Art of Fielding”

  1. I bought this book years ago, all jacked up from the reviews it received. But there it sits. Why? It know it isn’t just about baseball (and I like baseball), but it is long, so…I don’t know. Anyway, I just moved a cabinet sort of thing into my bedroom, and I think I’m going to use it to store my short-term TBR (rainy day project). I will move this book to that stack!

    1. I have a shelf like that in my family room. It works for me.

      I think you will love the book. It had shades of Owen Meany and I am not saying that because there is an Owen in the book.

      Off topic, but have you read The Interestings? I am reading it now and wowsers… I don’t know why but it’s making me all nostalgic for my twenties.

  2. My daughter bought a copy of this book when it came out in paperback and left it here, certain that I would enjoy it, too. And it’s still on the shelf. Like Sandy, I know it’s about more than baseball and I do like baseball… just need to make the time. You know how that goes…

    1. I DO know how that goes. I will say this, it was a really quick read considering its length and I thought I heard that it will be made into a movie. I could be wrong but I can totally see it as a movie too.

  3. I got a pre-publication copy of this as well but decided to wait until the buzz died down to read it. Well, the buzz died down a while ago and it still sits unread. I need to find the time to read it!

  4. I should probably dig this book out and actually read it. I checked it out when it was first published, and didn’t read it, then bought a copy from our library’s used book store.

  5. I’m so glad to read there’s more to this book than baseball…that’s kept me from reading it. I like the setting and your review has completely changed my mind about this book . Now I have to find the time to read it!

  6. I bought this when it was on sale on my Nook at the end of last year. Wasn’t so sure I’d like it, but I loved – absolutely loved – it. Such great writing, and parts of that story were just beautiful. Glad it was successful for you.

  7. The funny thing is, although Jim liked it a lot, he was disappointed because it was really NOT about baseball! It’s just a pity there are so many misconceptions about this excellent book!

  8. What an encouraging review! I actually went out last night and grabbed it. ‘Feel good” is the phrase that got me. I’m loving my R.I.P. reads but I need a break.

  9. Of all the sports, baseball is the only one I somewhat understand. I never read The Art of Fielding despite all the good reviews because it’s so long, and I didn’t think it could really be as good as everyone said. Maybe now I will. If only you had done it as a read-along! 😉

    1. I thought about doing it for a read along but I seriously thought everyone had read it. Turns out, no one has! LOL!

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  10. I think this book sounds wonderful. I like baseball, so that wouldn’t be an issue for me. But I like that it is a book about fitting in and friendship. Adding it to my wish list.

    1. I think you will enjoy it. I liked how all the characters meshed with one another. They seemed a whole, instead of individual characters. I liked that aspect of it.

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