In this debut novel, a family-oriented baseball player achieves professional success while amassing an extended family.
Alex Santucci is a late-career third baseman who finds himself in the spotlight after a streak of hits and an unexpected spot in an All-Star game. Having been newly prescribed a medication by his longtime physician, Dr. Walton, he feels rejuvenated, and he proposes to his longtime girlfriend, Sally. Given up for adoption as a child, Alex is surrounded by a complicated network of nontraditional family that informs his decisions as he’s traded from Kansas City to his native Washington, D.C. But with the exception of a mystery about Alex’s health and a slim possibility of infidelity late in the novel, the narrative is short on tension. Fischetti has a talent for getting small moments of domestic bliss on the page—the passages of Alex feeling fulfilled by his family are genuinely affecting—but too often that bliss comes at the expense of engaging narrative. Alex’s half sister joins the troupe about midway through the novel, for instance, and her energy and the mystery of her connection to Alex inject some much-needed drama. An avalanche of factual detail doesn’t help this sluggish novel: “Denny McLain won 31 games, and Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12, breaking the record of 1.14 set by Johnson in 1913,” reads one section, representative of dozens of others. Alex decides to undergo laparoscopic surgery on his stomach, which has the possibility of sidelining his excellent season. But when Alex goes under the knife, the reader is left with no reason to believe anything will go wrong since Fischetti has so persistently avoided conflict throughout.
A baseball tale too tightly controlled to make much of a connection.