I spent the last week feeling like a cranky book reviewer. Maybe I just dove into books that didn’t quite fit my mood. I don’t know.
But I was quite happy to come across The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz just as our Little League season is about to start up. The book languished for a few months with my son, who never got around to reading it, and then in my classroom bookshelves, where none of my students picked it up. On a whim, I grabbed it early last week after finishing The Genius Files (one of my cranky reviews) and immediately got hooked.
On the surface, the book reminds me a lot of Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx. That book follows an accordion through historical periods, as the instrument changes hands and stories unfold. In The Brooklyn Nine, Gratz tracks the history of baseball through much of the 20th Century as first a hand-sewn baseball, then a bat, and then more objects make their way from one generation of a family to another, ending up in the present as a disgruntled teenager finally learns the value of the stories of history. It’s a story of nine innings, told in nine chapters.
As Gratz nicely points out in an excellent Author’s Note at the end: “Baseball, more than any other sport, has a magical way of connecting fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, grandparents and grandchildren, and ancestors back down the line.” And as one character in the book notes, “I suppose that’s all we ever have in the end. Stories about the people who are gone and a few mementos to remind us that they were here.”
The characters are finely drawn, from the teenage girl breaking into the all-women’s league to the young boy hoping to get a black pitcher a chance in the big leagues to the boy on the mound in the midst of pitching a perfect game. The writing is superb, all around. I’m excited to have found this book and heartily recommend it to anyone with the love of baseball in their heart and soul.
Peace (in the field),