Henry Skrimshander is recruited to play shortstop for Westish College, a small college in Wisconsin. Henry is a quiet, mild-mannered young man who becomes a big star for the team, and appears to be destined for the big leagues. Henry's dream is to play for the St. Louis Cardinals and the scouts begin watching him. However, when Henry makes a routine throw that goes afoul, lives are dramatically changed. Henry begins a downward spiral of self-doubt, while those closest to him are also affected by the throw.
One of the things that I found interesting about the book was Henry's "Bible", The Art Of Fielding by a fictional retired short shop. Henry carried the book around with him and referred to it often, taking the lessons in the book to heart. I also thought that the names the author gave the characters were quite interesting: Henry Skrimshander, Pella Affenlight, Geurt Affenlight, Owen Dunne and Mike Schartz are the main characters.
As I said, all of the characters are affected by the outcome of the one bad throw that Henry made...a throw that changed lives. The book was a very interesting concept and one that I found very enjoyable to read!
In the book, Homer and Langley Collyer are brothers who live on 5th Avenue in New York in their deceased parent's grand mansion. Homer had gone blind as a boy, so was fairly dependent on his brother Langley. Langley had served in WWI and had returned home damaged by mustard gas. The brothers live pretty much as recluses, although Homer did work at one point playing music in a theater until talking films came out. Homer did have some meaningful relationships with people who were in his life at various periods, but Langley appeared to have difficulty with relationships. Langley collected newspapers and trash that might one day be useful. Langley's purpose in life was to come up with a timeless newspaper, which could replace all newspapers. Thus he collected and studied all the newspapers he could get, and catalogued news items in an effort to put them into his timeless newspaper. The idea, to me, seemed to be that history repeats itself...nothing is ever really new. So all events could go into this one newspaper, and then there would not be a need for other newspapers. That may not really make a lot of sense, but that is an example of how out there Langley appeared to be in the book. The book went through the years of the 20th century, as the brothers struggled with their existence. Langley refused to pay bills, so all utilities were turned off over the years.
The story was very sad, especially at the end, but was a very interesting read. Since I have read the book, I came across a review that Pete Hamill had done where he tells about the real story of the brothers. In the book, the brothers live into the 1960's, but in real life, they died in 1947. Hamill wrote:
"Far away in Brooklyn, the emerging myth of the Collyer brothers was made personal to us because one of our neighbors, a detective named Joe Whitmore, was assigned to the investigation. "You never seen anything like that place," he told my father one morning, while I listened in awe. "It's like a trip to Purgatory." His eyewitness accounts of filth, rats, newspapers stacked to ceilings, pianos everywhere (14 of them), a Model T automobile, and narrow tunnels through the densely packed trash were verified by the newspaper stories. Or, rather, Joe Whitmore verified the newspaper stories.Enough said.
The cops found Homer first. He was propped up in a chair, crippled and twisted by rheumatism, his hair wild and white, his beard falling below his chest. He wore only a tattered blue bathrobe. He had starved to death. They didn't find Langley for another three weeks. Despite reports of sightings all over New York and as far away as Atlantic City, his body lay only eight feet away from Homer's, crushed by thick walls of trash he had rigged as a booby trap. Rats had been dining on his aging flesh."
The book has many good lessons to teach. Each of the ghosts have their own stories of life in other times. As Bod gets older, he realizes that he is missing out on life and wants to experience for himself the lives that the ghosts have already lived. The book is about Bod learning how to live in the real world. A good read.