Review: John Grisham – Calico Joe

john-grisham-calico-joeWhen I saw this book on the book people, I was intrigued. I knew that Grisham was more of a legal writer – I know my dad had read a lot of his books. But the description said that it was completely different to those books, and of course the cover drew me in straight away.

Now I don’t know what his legal books are like, but this book was very emotional. The start was a little confusing with two seemingly unrelated stories running in parallel, but it quickly becomes clear how the stories are going to intercept, even while you are praying for it not to be so.

Joe Castle is a rookie phenom for the Chicago Cubs. He’s smashing records left, right and centre, hitting home runs, triples, stealing bases and inspiring the hearts of Cubs fans nationwide. He’s 8 year old Paul Tracy’s idol, Paul collects his pictures from the newspaper for his scrapbook and follows his fledgling career game by game. One fateful day in August, Castle comes up to bat against the Mets starting pitcher: a bitter, spiteful and over the hill pitcher, named Warren Tracy. Yep, that’s Paul’s father Warren Tracy. A man who only barely holds the title ‘father’, he’s abusive and distant and unfaithful.

In Castle’s first at bat, a prolonged affair with numerous foul balls, Castle hits yet another home run. As he’s rounding the bases, he gives himself a little fist bump. Nothing too fancy, and definitely not intended to show up the pitcher.

But Warren is cynical and claims to be from the ‘old school’. He doesn’t like this gesture, and decides that next time up, he’ll get his own back. Cut to the third inning and Warren throws two normal pitches. It looks like Castle may escape unscathed, but in the stands, Paul knows better. He turns to his mum and says “He’s going to hit him”. And he’s right. The next pitch, Warren throws as hard as he can, straight at Castle’s head. There’s a sound of crunching bone and Castle hits the floor. The ball hit him in the eye, missing his protective helmet and shattering his skull – a 95mph projectile to the head tends to have that effect.

Castle never recovers. His sight is damaged in that eye and the subsequent stroke that he had causes him to walk with a limp. He’s a recluse, no-one has talked to him in years, and he has spent his days as a groundskeeper for the high school baseball field in his hometown.

Meanwhile, a 38 year old Paul Tracy receives a call from his father, he’s dying from cancer. Paul hasn’t seen his dad regularly since that day 30 years ago, but he knows that there is something that he has to do. He wants to take his father to Calico Rock to meet Joe Castle and apologise for what he has always maintained was an accident. He knows that it will be a struggle to get his dad to agree, and it doesn’t go quite as planned.

I really loved this book. It was a perfect mix of thrilling baseball action and heart wrenching moments as Paul recollects the troubles from his past and the repercussions of his father’s actions.

All in all, a fantastic book, and has left me wanting to try some of his usual books.


Now Reading: David Wells – Perfect I’m Not

The autobiography of Joe Torre that I just read was fantastic! I was quite lucky that I had a train journey to London and back on Friday, so I read the entire book in one day. The first part of the book was about his life – his upbringing and the start of his career (his playing days). I didn’t know too much about him before I started reading, but I was interested to learn he had quite a tough childhood, that he almost didn’t get to play baseball, and that he had an older brother (Frank), who was also a baseball player.

The second part of the book was about his managing career. I had only associated him with the Yankees, so it was quite surprising that he managed for a long time before the Yankees (and not very successfully either). The Yankees must have been the right fit for him, as the last part of the book was an in depth description of the 1996 World Series. It was fascinating to get inside the mind of a manager as he makes all the decisions, like when to take a player out of the game, and when to let them try and rescue themselves. It was highlighted because Joe Torre was previously a national league manager, and gave us descriptions of that mindset.

I’ve definitely got a different opinion of Joe Torre (and to some extent the Yankees), after reading this book, and it will definitely be one I read again.

The next book is another of the baseball books I just bought from Amazon. I didn’t realise that Amazon had some ‘Preferred Partners’. Basically this means that you buy a used book from another company, but it gets dispatched by Amazon, from the Amazon warehouse, and is still eligible for free shipping. It means you can gets books for £1-2 instead of £7-15. The condition is stated up front, and was pretty accurate when the books came. I’m the kind of person that likes to enjoy reading (as you may have noticed), so I don’t worry about keeping books in immaculate condition anyway.

I’ve heard some stories about David Wells, so I’m interested to see if his reputation is true!