For all the fans of John Grisham, and I know there are many of you, please don't hate me if I say that I don't really read his work. I don't care much for his legal thrillers. Maybe because my husband once practiced law and we were never approached by a high-powered attorney offering him a million dollar job and a home that was paid for by "The Firm." Ok, so maybe I'm just jealous! But despite my cynicism towards his legal fiction, I can't deny that Grisham is a fantastic writer who can put out a wonderful book outside of that realm. One of his latest works is "Calico Joe" and tells the story of baseball, a little boy's dreams and a grown man's demons.
It's the summer of 1973. Paul Tracey is a young boy growing up in what you would think is a dream life for any kid who loved baseball. His father, Warren, is a major league baseball pitcher! But Warren Tracey isn't a quite a decent role model for his son. He's an alcoholic with a bad temper and a self-pitying attitude that he has never been as successful as he thinks he should have been. His family pays the price. Neglectful, absent and abusive, and Warren's career is hanging on by a thread. He has almost driven the love of the game out of his son, when a miracle happens that summer. A rookie player from Calico Rock, Arkansas, Joe Castle, blazes into the major leagues. Obliterating all records by hitting home run after home run, Calico Joe became the hero of every baseball fan young and old. His poise and charm on and off the field prove that he is a role model to be counted on. Paul Tracey is star-struck and falls back in love with the game.
You would think that this would make Warren Tracey happy. But sadly, that isn't so. His son's following of the young, and truly gifted Joe Castle, only fuels his rage over his own shortcomings. As his father delves even further into the darkness of his self-pity, young Paul finds a light and something to believe in as Calico Joe's star rises. The summer of 1973 carries on. Baseball fans are in a frenzy over their new superstar. By August the lives of Joe Castle, Warren Tracey, and Paul who wants to love them both, will be intertwined forever.
Grisham has written a love story to our greatest American sport and to all of us who love baseball. "Calico Joe" finishes with a life lesson for everyone in reinforcing the power of forgiveness, so it's a very human story as well. This is a read that is perfect for the end of summer as we expectantly wait for our home team to... just maybe...make it to the post season! There can't be an American alive who isn't touched, even the tiniest bit, by the love of baseball. For me, the book also captured the essence of my youth as child of the 70's, who even as a girl, spent many hours in the backyard playing catch with my dad. I was proud to be one of "Tippy's Tweeters" down at the old Memorial Stadium, and learned to score the game in my official Oriole's Program.
So back to my initial statement that I don't read much Grisham. There are two other books that I thought were gems that he has written; "A Painted House" and "Skipping Christmas". There is another he has done more recently entitled, "Playing for Pizza" that I am planning on grabbing soon. I am truly happy that he has occasionally broken out of the genre that he is known for so the rest of us can be blessed with his work. If you have steered away from John Grisham because, like me, you aren't "into" the legal thing, I hope you give "Calico Joe" a try. I promise you will finish the book with a warm heart and the undeniable craving for a hot dog and a bag of peanuts!
Recommended by Donna Nichols