After finishing Gone Girl I was ready for something light and happy. So I read Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos. It was a great book, and I will certainly read de los Santos again, but I read it within a few days and needed something else. Enter The Art of Fielding one of the books I bought a few weeks ago on my trip to Barnes & Noble.
Despite being an excellent book, it wasn't exactly the pick me up I needed. While Chad Harbach's debut novel had an interesting hook: the impact one moment can have on the lives of many, I found myself wishing for a more hopeful ending. This is a character driven novel versus a plot driven story, and while I appreciate that method of story-telling, I can't come away saying I liked it.
That being said, Fielding was packed with realistic and poignant characters. There was no antagonist, so every character was fighting against their own past and self-doubt. Each of the five principal characters narrate their own story following a young college short-stops catastrophic throw to first base. Henry, the short stop in question, begins as a naive high school student and transforms into a sure-footed potential major league draft pick, but he disintegrates into a shadow of himself. Not through want of trying, Henry struggles to overcome the psychological effects of expectation and pressure.
Henry's mentor, Mike Schwartz, must come to terms with his own failings and future - both of which are uncertain at the novels' beginning. Pella, the formerly estranged daughter of the college's president, stumbles in to Mike's life and together they form new paths. Despite being happy for Pella's return, President Affenlight is embroiled in a tumultuous relationship with student - a student who just happens to be Henry's roommate. The five characters, while their journeys are most certainly intertwined, fail at first to recognize the linkage between themselves. Once they realize the ripple effect of their actions are inescapable, the ending seems rather fortuitous.
Please don't take this to mean I wouldn't recommend this book. Quite the contrary. I simply think I may have read it at the wrong time. In my desperation to perk up after the seriously frightening and somewhat depressing Gone Girl, Harbach's book was poor choice. It will certainly remain on my shelf though, just waiting for another chance to make a better impression.