Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Calico Joe by John Grisham

A surprising and moving novel 
of fathers and sons,
 forgiveness and redemption, 
set in the world of Major League Baseball…


 Whatever happened to Calico Joe?
     It began quietly enough with a pulled hamstring. The first baseman for the Cubs AAA affiliate in Wichita went down as he rounded third and headed for home. The next day, Jim Hickman, the first baseman for the Cubs, injured his back. The team suddenly needed someone to play first, so they reached down to their AA club in Midland, Texas, and called up a twenty-one-year-old named Joe Castle. He was the hottest player in AA and creating a buzz.
In the summer of 1973 Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen.  The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records.
Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher. On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his Dad. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever…
In John Grisham’s new novel the baseball is thrilling, but it’s what happens off the field that makes CALICO JOE a classic.

I've always enjoyed Grisham's legal thrillers and novels and my whole family enjoys baseball. My husband and sons all played from Little League through college. This is the first spring in 18 years we don't have someone playing! I wasn't sure if I would like a combination of the two (Grisham and baseball) but I sure wanted to find out. I'm very glad I did.

Although this is a baseball theme the actual story is about the lives and relationships of three men. Knowing baseball certainly made it more enjoyable for me but it's not a requirement for reading this book.  Joe Castle is such a likable young man he becomes a nationwide hero in no time. Warren Tracey is his complete opposite. He's an older player who's losing his edge, a bully at home and on the field. His young son Paul is caught in the middle. He wants to adore his father but idolizes Joe Castle. When Warren changes his and Joe's career forever with just one pitch, Paul suspects it wasn't an accident.

This is Paul's story. He is now an adult with a loving family but a nonexistent relationship with his father. When a health crisis brings them together, Paul flashes back on his childhood and everything that brought them to this point. He is still haunted by traumatic memories and gets the opportunity to confront them to find out the truth. 

Grisham weaves an interesting tale filled with drama and heart. The characters are likable (or very unlikable) with dimension and depth. Chapters alternate between the past and the present, building the details of the story. Real teams and players are interwoven with fiction in a wonderful combination that pulled me into the drama. The ending is very satisfying and brings a form of closure to a broken little boy as well as the reader.  This was the perfect springtime read, especially for the opening of baseball season.

Thank you to Knopf Doubleday for an ARC to review.

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Release date: 4/10/12
Pages: 208 (hardcover)
Type: fiction

1 comment:

  1. That does sound perfect for baseball season. Hopefully I can find the time to get to it soon.


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