The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Don’t be fooled by the title and descriptions of this book as a ‘Book about baseball’ because it is far far more than that. I know nothing about baseball and I did find myself skimming some of the game descriptions (which can be a disadvantage when the plot mainly revolves around the successes and failures of the team). Nonetheless, the characters and interesting and engaging and at a very basic level, the friendships in the book demonstrate many heart warming aspects of solidarity, male bonding and competitive, testosterone driven achievement.
Some people may find the storyline a bit clichéd, as the main male sportsmen are drawn through the traditional story arc of rising success. The fact of the matter is that the reader can see the clichés and know what’s going to happen next, but that doesn’t mean we like the book any less because by that stage we are living the adventures of the main characters, training hard, playing hard, studying curveballs and statistics and playing great games. We are supporting our friends and telling them lies and living the complex lives of money, power and friendships that so often unravel after graduation.
The book covers the sadness of loss and the temptation in youth to stay in the place of safety that is University despite that phase of your life ending. The realisation in early adulthood that all of the things you would like to live in permanently, studying and living close to friends and being part of a team, may be transient.
The book struck a chord about the strengths of friendships. Friendships that continue despite age and loss and life. My husband still maintains close friendships with three friends from university (all boys, and still referred to as ‘The Boys’), I also sustain close friendships with three girlfriends from my own university days. These friendships have not always been smooth, we are people after all, we have argued passionately, been there through illness and death. The friendships remain: sustained in a deep rooted self perpetuating truth about love.