THE MAN WITH TWO ARMS by Billy Lombardo


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An obsessive parent demonstrates his love for his son with an unusual experiment.

Lombardo (How to Hold a Woman, 2009, etc.) follows the career of ball-playing wunderkind Danny Granville, the child of high-school teacher Henry and desolate Lori. After discovering that his young son can pitch with either hand, Henry begins training the boy to be the world’s greatest “switch pitcher” by forcing him to operate equally well with either arm. “Maybe there was a window for ambidexterity,” Henry muses. “There were windows for everything! There were windows for creativity and personality and athleticism and musical talent and compassion and altruism, and even genius!” Outside the home, Danny keeps the secret of his immense talent until he loses a high-school game—punching himself afterwards in frustration, to his mother’s horror—and decides to unleash his two-armed barrage on the opposing team in the following match. After a brief stint at college, Danny is drafted in the third round by the Chicago Cubs and before long is striking out the best hitters in the business at Wrigley Field. Exploring with acuity the psychologies of both father and son, the narrative works best when it sticks to the venerable literary traditions of the baseball novel. Regrettably, the author insists on artificially ratcheting up the tension with a reporter who writes an overblown exposé of Henry’s obsession and a subpar subplot implying that Danny’s talent for pitching has unlocked some kind of preternatural ability to foresee disaster. While definitely worthwhile, the book ultimately reflects Danny’s personal mantra: “There’s no such thing as a perfect game.”

Not a great addition to the canon of baseball literature, but not a swing and a miss either.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59020-307-1
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2009