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CASTRO'S CURVEBALL by Tim Wendel

CASTRO'S CURVEBALL

By Tim Wendel

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-345-42441-7
Publisher: Ballantine

A wry, ruefully nostalgic debut novel from USA Today sportswriter Wendel (Going for the Gold, 1980) puts a naive American baseball player on a misguided quest for heroism as he tries to persuade a young Fidel Castro to pitch for the Washington Senators. In 1993, the aging Billy Bryan and his daughter Cassy make a clandestine trip to Cuba, where, half a century earlier, Bryan was catching for the Havana Lions, a Cuban League farm team whose best players went on to the American major leagues. The sad ruin that is modern Cuba makes Bryan recall the heady winter of 1947, when a student protest momentarily halted a game and a lanky, beardless Castro demonstrated the effortless baseball talent—and the potential for baseball heroism—that Bryan never had. Bryan’s pursuit of Castro led him to the passionately political Malena Fonseca, a Cuban photographer who may also have been Castro’s lover. Thus begins Bryan’s backward glance at a tragicomic adventure in pre-revolutionary Cuba. Wise to the ways of baseball, Bryan sees Castro as a charismatic fraud, manipulating adversaries and acolytes with real and metaphorical curveballs. Yet he falls in love with the manipulative Fonseca, who, after becoming his lover, compels Bryan to sacrifice his career to save Castro from an embarrassment that could have thwarted the revolution. Fonseca refused to accompany Bryan back to the US, and died shortly after growing disillusioned with Castro. Now, on his furtive return to Cuba, Bryan wonders how he’ll ever know whether Fonseca really loved him; questions whether Evan, the daughter Fonseca bore before she died, is really his; and ponders how the world might have been different if either Bryan or Castro had become the baseball greats they—d hoped to be. A superbly crafted meditation on heroism, duty, and the irony derived from recognizing everyone’s imperfections but your own.