While it eventually turns melodramatic, this tale offers an appealingly honest portrayal of aspirant baseball players.


Three minor league pitchers contend with fate in this debut novel.

Growing up outside Boston under the shadow of his father’s unrealized major league baseball dreams, Jimmy Bailey wishes to succeed where his dad could not. That’s why he’s willing to board with a strange family in Jamestown, New York, in the early 1970s. He isn’t the only pitcher there to play ball for a Single-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos. There’s also Bobby Mangino, a hotheaded New Yorker with some father issues of his own to work out, and Bud Prescott, an aw-shucks optimist from Athens, Georgia. The three young athletes must contend with their nerves, ambitions, and abilities to throw fastballs as they spend the summer competing to move forward toward their dreams of the big leagues. “We’re all in the same boat: all-stars in our high schools, Babe Ruth and Connie Mack ball,” narrates Jimmy. “People at home knew who we are. Here, we are essentially nothing but three passengers jammed into the back seat of a Dodge station wagon—until we can prove otherwise.” They must face the expected obstacles. But the unforeseen tragedies (bodily, legal, and otherwise) will remind them that once they leave the field, they still have to compete in the most important game of all: the rest of their lives. Fischer adeptly—and often lyrically—captures the mindset of her characters, both their love of their sport and the things that they’ve given up to pursue it: “There’s nothing better than the smell that fills every corner, every inch, of a ballpark on a sunny spring day....The aroma makes me feel high. I bet it’s like sniffing cocaine or drinking too much tequila. But I’ve never done that. I’ve only gotten high on baseball.” The author wrings genuine emotions from the tale, making sure that readers know what’s at stake for these young men. This is perhaps why some shocking third act developments feel histrionic and unnecessary. Even so, Fischer manages to clearly communicate her ultimate message: that baseball holds more humiliation than it does glory, and far more losers than winners.

While it eventually turns melodramatic, this tale offers an appealingly honest portrayal of aspirant baseball players.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9995049-0-1

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Spring Training Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2017

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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

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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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