Author: Emily Nemens
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Book Description: An explosive, character-driven odyssey through the world of baseball from Emily Nemens, the editor of The Paris Review
Jason Goodyear is the star outfielder for the Los Angeles Lions, stationed with the rest of his team in the punishingly hot Arizona desert for their annual spring training. Handsome, famous, and talented, Goodyear is nonetheless coming apart at the seams. And the coaches, writers, wives, girlfriends, petty criminals, and diehard fans following his every move are eager to find out why―as they hide secrets of their own.
Humming with the energy of a ballpark before the first pitch, Emily Nemens’ The Cactus League unravels the tightly connected web of people behind a seemingly linear game. Narrated by a sportscaster, Goodyear’s story is interspersed with tales of Michael Taylor, a batting coach trying to stay relevant; Tamara Rowland, a resourceful spring-training paramour, looking for one last catch; Herb Allison, a legendary sports agent grappling with his decline; and a plethora of other richly drawn characters, all striving to be seen as the season approaches. It’s a journey that, like the Arizona desert, brims with both possibility and destruction.
Anchored by an expert knowledge of baseball’s inner workings, Emily Nemens’s The Cactus League is a propulsive and deeply human debut that captures a strange desert world that is both exciting and unforgiving, where the most crucial games are the ones played off the field.
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars
Review: What an amazing read. At first glance, I thought a book at baseball, probably not for me. However, after hearing more and more about it, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. Even though this book centers around baseball there is actually very little baseball in this novel.
This book is written in 9 chapters (innings), and centers around Jason Goodyear who is a star MLB player for the fictional team LA Lions. But, Nemens wrote this from the perspective of many different people taking an outside look on Jason. While Goodyear is the character that interconnects each chapter, these are really individual stories. This very much felt like Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
You will hear stories, from rookies, batting coaches, groupies, ex-wives and more. Nemens wrote each chapter to really stand on its own. Some of these characters she could write entire books about.
This is literary fiction at its core, because it is so character driven. I can’t say how much I enjoyed this book. This book definitely could havebeen written as a double-header as I just did not want this one to end.
Thank you NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.