Friday, April 20, 2012

Calico Joe by John Grisham

At long last, America's favorite storyteller takes on America's favorite pastime. In this surprising and moving novel, the careers of a golden boy rookie hitter for the Cubs and a hard-hitting Mets pitcher take very different paths. The baseball is thrilling, but it's what happens off the field that makes Calico Joe a classic.

Definitely not your typical Grisham book, but variety is spicy or whatever. This book was satisfying both for sports enthusiasts and lovers of an emotional story.  Calico Joe is the story of a career cut short by one moment of anger, pride and jealousy. But it's more about a man trying to help his abusive father make peace before he dies.

Joe Castle and Calico Rock, Arkansas reminded me of Doc Graham and Chisholm, Minnesota in Field of Dreams - the hometown hero.  In fact, the whole thing had a bit of Field of Dreams flavor - and that's a good thing!  There is a lot of sports jargon and game details in the story that might be tricky for non-baseball enthusiasts, but the story behind the games is the focus.

The book is, of course, well-written - it's Grisham, after all - but the ending was a bit of a dribbling grounder.  Everything gets wrapped up and it's even a "good" ending - but it could have been better.  I'll explain why in the next paragraph, but it contains some spoilers, so be warned.

*SPOILER ALERT* If you read between the lines, you catch that Warren's biggest beef with Joe was that Paul idolized Joe rather than his father.  Warren found the scrapbook on Joe and he was jealous.   Paul's guilt for his unintentional contribution to Joe's injury is at least part of what drove him to make the trip.  Warren and Paul touch on it briefly in their final showdown but I felt the ending would have been better if the scrapbook had been addressed openly.  

I gave Calico Joe four out of 5 stars.


  1. Interesting plot line; I did read the spoiler alert, LOL, because I'm sure it will take me awhile to get to this book if I read it, LOL, that I would have forgotten the alert :)

    have a good weekend (and boy that was a surprise on American Idol last night)


  2. The story is told through the eyes of Warren's eleven year old boy Paul and alternates between 1973, the year Calico Joe and Warren were in the game together, and thirty years later when all three characters are still living lives vastly influenced by the events of that year. Warren not only contributed to one of the game's great "what ifs," but also through his wretched performance as a father and husband, ensured that his family would bear the influence of being of and with Warren Tracey.

  3. This seems more like his Painted House (not sure if this is the title) book. Not sure this is a good fit for me though!