CALICO JOE, John Grisham

A surprising and moving novel of fathers and sons, forgiveness and redemption, set in the world of Major League Baseball.

Whatever happened to Calico Joe?

When he arrived in Philadelphia, a cab delivered him to Veterans Stadium, where he was quickly fixed for a uniform, given Number 42, and hustled onto the field. The Cubs were already taking batting practice. Understandably, he was nervous, thrilled, almost bewildered, and when the manager, Whitey Lockman, said, “Get loose. You’re starting at first and hitting seventh,” Joe Castle had trouble gripping his brand-new bat. In his first round of major-league batting practice, he swung at the first two pitches and missed.

He would not miss again for a long time.

In the summer of 1973, Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen. The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas, dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records.

Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher. On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his dad. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever.

In John Grisham’s new novel the baseball is thrilling, but it’s what happens off the field that makes Calico Joe a classic.

Richard writes
Grisham hits a triple with this work. The work is not a major book with a lengthy cast of characters and an intriguing or appealing plot. Looking for a serious villain? Ain’t there. Looking for a colourful hero? Not there either. Looking for an intricate and mesmerizing storyline? Nope.

So, what’s there?
A solidly written story with suspense, appeal and engagement. Grisham may have taken a sabbatical from his usual legal, court-room based genre with Calico Joe. However, he stays true to the Grisham we all know, expect and appreciate. He may have passed on writing another court-room drama. Instead focussing on delivering a plot-light, less intense story than is his norm. 

Calico Joe is a light read but still vintage Grisham. The prose is polished and perfected. Any and every writer should parse this book to analyze why Grisham is such a highly regarded writer. The sentence structures, just right; the vocabulary, dead-on; the characters, appealing and delightful. You just can’t go wrong reading a Grisham book. 

Some writers once they have plateaued in their craft, ease up in their effort. A few even farm out some of the writing to subordinate writing teams. Not Grisham. The author recognizes that you paid for his book. So it is incumbent on him to deliver value for the buck. Grisham always does. He does so again with Calico Joe. 

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