A good read for any baseball fan and a fitting tribute to the recently triumphant Cubs.

CURVEBALLS & CHANGEUPS

BLEEDING BLUE AND SEEING RED

Kmitta’s debut novel tells a story about Chicago baseball fans in two different eras.

The story starts in 1867 with a mysterious, forceful figure named William Hulbert who’s committed to two things: Chicago and “base ball”—two words, as it was then spelled. He’s determined to get this new game taken seriously as a professional sport. (In real life, Hulbert went on to found the National League in 1876.) Meanwhile, readers are treated to cameos by historical figures such as beer magnate Adolphus Busch and future president Ulysses S. Grant. The narrative then shifts to 1967—and from third-person narration to first-person—to focus on a young fan named Scott Banks at his first Chicago Cubs baseball game. Scott remains an avid Cubs fan as the years go by, even after his job forces him to move to St. Louis—enemy territory, as it were. Later, he has a wife and three grown kids, all Cardinals fans, and he wins a contest to face off as a batter against genuine Cardinals pitchers. Scott showed some promise as a high school baseball player, but life and injuries intervened; now, he can get a tiny taste of “The Show,” even if he has to do it in Busch Stadium, not Wrigley Field. The story toggles between Hulbert’s and Scott’s stories, and the run-up to Scott’s big showdown, in particular, is handled well. Part of the fun for readers will be in learning early “base ball” lore and terminology: the catcher, for example, was called the “behinder,” umpires were “arbiters,” and fans were “cranks.” Kmitta is a genuine baseball fanatic; indeed, Scott appears to be a thinly disguised version of the author, who’s active in a vintage baseball league. He’s also a capable writer, never skimping on detail and keeping the story moving at a fairly brisk pace while also giving readers a present-day protagonist that they’ll sympathize with and root for.

A good read for any baseball fan and a fitting tribute to the recently triumphant Cubs.

Pub Date: May 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-6095-6

Page Count: 312

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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