The Art of Fielding is a continuously rewarding novel that never relents. Chad Harbach just lets the story be the hero and because of this I couldn’t stop reading until there were no more pages left to turn. Even after 500+ pages I still wanted more.
Very early in my reading experience, I realized this is not a book for sports fans alone. With so much positive responses on the internet I imagined The Art of Fielding would be about so much more than baseball.
What I was unprepared for was the character torture. I found myself trying to read my way through the challenges. This is where I found the most joy. Just like life, Harbach doesn’t let up; there are no easy escapes. These difficulties are what I will remember most. The characters’ interactions and attempts to help one another make sense – in a ‘real life doesn’t make sense’ kind of way.
Character development is enhanced by use of their own voice. Harbach often writes in the voice of the character he focused on during a given chapter, but the voices are very subtle; he doesn’t fumble into them, they seem natural. The reader therefore is not just up in the clouds, but sometimes in the characters’ heads. Sometimes that is a scary place to be and other times you won’t realize you’re there.
Even with different perspectives, this is a story centered on star shortstop Henry Skrimshander and the rise of his team; or is it Mike Schwartz’s team? I don’t think it’s necessary to be a baseball fan, though I’m sure that will intrigue and scare away some readers.
The overwhelming theme is uncertainty. That seems easy enough, but it creates complex issues and causes the characters to act outside of their norm. Witnessing their behavioral spontaneity and watching them all grow left me to realize my only gripe: selfishly I wish The Art of Fielding were longer.
– Eric McCarty (5/23/2012)