This book ended up being nothing like I thought it would, but it had me hooked from the first page. I had expected a book that was heavily baseball oriented, but baseball was (in the main) just an undercurrent throughout the book to support the other issues. The book is centred around a few characters whose lives become completely intertwined. The main character is Henry, a naturally talented shortstop who is spotted by Schwartz and persuaded to attend Westish College. As he’s a late addition to the school, he ends up sharing a room with Owen. Owen starts an affair with the school’s president Guert Affenlight, whose daughter Pella turns up at the school having run away from her husband. Pella ends up in a relationship with Schwartz, and you can see how everyone’s lives wind up hopelessly tangled.
The book is a fantastic book about growing up and dealing with the transition from college to the real world. After being trained by Schwartz, Henry is so gifted that baseball scouts start turning up to his games, and there is talk of him being drafted in the early rounds. All this until an errant throw from Henry accidentally hits Owen in the head and puts him in hospital. Henry suddenly quits playing baseball and begins a downward spiral into depression and anorexia, shutting out his friends and almost throwing away every opportunity that had been given to him.
The book deals with some hard issues very gracefully, and the conclusion of each character’s storyline at the end was brilliant. I actually don’t have anything bad to say about the book, apart from the fact that I was glad to finish it so that I don’t have to carry it in my bag any more, the hardback weighs a ton!
This was a great debut novel from Harbach, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.