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Book Review: Calico Joe, by John Grisham, a Novel About Baseball and Men Who Play the Game

May 29, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 223

Calico Joe is baseball book-and more. I am going to make two seemingly contradictory statements about Calico Joe, John Grisham's "baseball" book.

· If you're a baseball fan, you will most likely enjoy Calico Joe.

· If you're not a baseball fan, you will most likely enjoy Calico Joe.

I can make those on-the-surface contradictory statements with confidence, because although Calico Joe is indeed a "baseball" book, it's much more than that. It's a book about relationships, relationships of many kinds-between a son and his father, a brother and his sister, a son and his mother, a boy and his friends. Not mention a whole lineup of baseball players, some of them giants of the game, others less so. But all play a part in this tale of a game, and of the joys and sorrows of those who play-or wish they could.

Calico Joe pulls you in, shows you hits, runs, errors-in the game and in life. The cast of characters, as is usual with Grisham's fiction, is extensive and clearly drawn, and in this case is an intriguing mixture of real and purely fictional people. Here's a sampling of the fictional characters who are at the center of the tale:

· Paul, a baseball fan, son of a pitcher for the New York Mets, who with his friends follows the game religiously, knowing each player and every statistic.

· Paul's father, Warren, a fairly successful pitcher for the Mets, but a failure as a husband, father and generally not a nice man.

· Paul's mother and sister, both of whom have suffered at the hands of a husband and a father.

· A young pitcher named Joe Castle, from Calico Rock, Arkansas, who is the hottest player in the Chicago Cubs AA club, and is called up to the majors because of another player's injury.

Calico Joe is the essence of baseball at its best. And its worst. Surrounding these characters, coming in and out of the story at important times to make essential points, are other people, some of them baseball figures, who are, as I've already said, a mixture of real and imagined.

They add color and depth to the baseball story, and Grisham uses them to great advantage throughout, letting them add verisimilitude to the tale without interfering with the central story-the tragedy of an outstanding young pitcher coming up fast in his sport, and an older, once-successful-but- now-fading pitcher who commits an unpardonable sin.

One baseball season changes lives, maybe forever. Or maybe not. One season of one year in the history of the Chicago Cubs is the fulcrum of the story. In that year, 1973, Calico Joe begins what promises to be an extraordinary career as a baseball pitcher. Before the season is out, Joe's career is over. Life goes on, baseball games are played, and Joe Castle goes home to Calico Rock, Arkansas. To friends and family who take care of him the best they can.

And one man works almost a miracle in the lives of others. Is forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation even possible when one man has ruined another's life? Once that Cubs season is over, the rest of the story goes into high gear, and Grisham gives the reader an answer to that eternal question. He puts flesh and blood into Joe, and Warren and Paul and the others in their families and friends.

He builds logical and rational motives for the actions of each of his characters, and lets them live with the consequences of their actions, right or wrong. How he does it, how he answers that eternal question about redemption and reconciliation and forgiveness, makes for engrossing, surprising, and emotionally satisfying reading.

Calico Joe gets an A-plus

For full disclosure: As a Cubs fan, I had to read this book, and having read it, had to review it as well. My husband and I lived in Chicago's Streeterville/Gold Coast area, which abuts the north side, home base to Wrigley Field and the Cubs. We were and still are Cubs fans through thick and thin, and as anyone who reads the sports pages knows, there has been for the Cubs much more thin than thick.

Even if I weren't a Cubs fan, I would give this book an A-plus.

When you are in the mood to read, and mystery is the thing that interests you just then, visit the Mystery Lady's website. There you will find reviews of books that have attracted the Mystery Lady, and will most likely appeal to you as well.

The Mystery Lady, aka, is more than just a reviewer. She is a professional writer whose love of reading and writing began in childhood and has become a lifelong passion.

Look for book reviews and opinions on all sorts of mystery-related topics and other kinds of issues as well. Read the Mystery Lady's thoughts on e-books, self-publishing, writing, grammar, novels, short stories, and a host of other issues that appeal to readers and writers.

Whenever you are looking for a good read, think of

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