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The art of fielding : a novel
Chad Harbach
Adult Fiction HARBACH

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Recalling works as disparate as Chaim Potok's The Chosen, John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and Scott Lasser's Battle Creek, Harbach's big-hearted and defiantly old-fashioned debut demonstrates the rippling effects of a single baseball gone awry. When college shortstop phenom Henry Skrimshander accidentally beans teammate Owen Dunne with a misplaced throw, it starts a chain reaction on the campus of Westish College, "that little school in the crook of the baseball glove that is Wisconsin." Owen is solicitously visited in the hospital by school president Guert Affenlight, a widower, who falls in love with the seductive gay student, a "serious breech of professional conduct" that sends potentially devastating ripples through the school. Affenlight's daughter, Pella, after a failed marriage in San Francisco, returns to become part of a love triangle with Henry and Mike Schwartz, the team captain and Henry's unofficial mentor. And just when Henry's hopes of playing for the St. Louis Cardinals come within reach, he suffers a crisis of confidence, even as his team makes a rousing run at the championship. Through it all, Henry finds inspiration in the often philosophically tinged teachings found in The Art of Fielding ("Death is the sanction of all that the athlete does"), by a fictional retired shortstop. Harbach manages incisive characterizations of his five main players, even as his narrative, overlong and prone to affectation, tests the reader's patience.(Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

In this deft first novel, a baseball prodigy comes to Westish College, a small school in upper Wisconsin. Henry Skrimshander is recruited by Mike Schwartz, who plays at Westish and recognizes Henry as one of the greatest shortstops ever. Henry's roommate, the pot-smoking, gay, African American Owen Dunne, also joins the team. College president Guert Affenlight develops a passionate crush on Owen, with whom he improbably begins a clandestine relationship. Unfortunately, as Henry closes in on a fielding milestone, he loses his confidence and falls apart. Guert's long-lost daughter, who has returned to Westish after the collapse of her marriage and hooked up with Mike, tries to help Henry find his throwing arm again. Meanwhile, the ongoing affair between Owen and Guert becomes increasingly difficult to hide as the book climaxes at the Division III national championship. VERDICT Succeeding on many levels, this highly enjoyable and intelligent novel offers several coming-of-age tales set against the background of an exciting and convincing baseball drama. Harbach paints a humorous and resonant portrait of a small college community while effectively portraying the Wisconsin landscape and a lake that provides an almost mystical source of solace and renewal. This should be a popular novel. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/11.]-Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Henry Skrimshander
Male
Was destined for stardom until a routine throw went disastrously off course; fights against self-doubt.
College student

Guert Afflenlight
Male
Father
President of Westish College; longtime bachelor; has fallen helplessly in love.
College president

Owen Dunne
Male
Gay
Henry's roommate and teammate; caught up in a dangerous affair.
College student

Mike Schwartz
Male
Captain of the Harpooner's; Henry's best friend; realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own.
Baseball coach

Pella Afflenlight
Female
Divorced
Guert's daughter; has returned home after escaping an ill-fated marriage; determined to start a new life.



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