“Meh. I was greatly looking forward to reading this debut novel and perhaps it suffered from overly high expectations, but it was just okay.
Henry Schrimshander loves to play baseball. He has dedicated his life to being the perfect shortstop, and has managed to get there by following the rules in The Art of Fielding. He is the center of a cast of characters including Mike Schwartz, Henry's best friend, trainer, and role model; Owen Dunne, Henry's roommate; Geurt Affenlight, the University President; and Pella Affenlight, Geurt's daughter who has returned home after a failed marriage. Henry is on the verge of making college baseball history and is a shoo-in for being drafted into the majors. All of their lives seem to be on track until Henry becomes plagued by errors and everything begins to unravel.
The writing style definitely reminded me of Franzen. Which is fine, I actually really enjoyed Freedom by Franzen. But part of that love was because of the nature theme of the book. The Art of Fielding was also very much character-driven, but the uniting theme was baseball, a topic that I am familiar with but am not crazy about, which lowered my overall enjoyment.
The pace of The Art was also off. The first third of the book was good. Henry's transition into college ball and his gaining notoriety for his skills had a good pace and I really enjoyed the character development. However, the book skidded to a grinding halt in the middle portion after Henry started struggling with baseball. The characters seemed to get stuck in a repeating rut and I stopped caring about what happened to them. The storyline plodded along. The last quarter of the book did pick back up but by then I was completely not invested in the characters, the storyline, or Henry's baseball career. Also, the ending seemed very abrupt.
Overall, it would have gotten a higher rating from me if it would have had a theme I could have gotten more excited about and the pave would have been more even. ”