Book: The Brooklyn Nine
Author: Alan Gratz
In 1845, a ten-year-old German Jewish immigrant meets Alexander Cartwright and the New York Knickerbockers. In 2002, his fourteen-year-old great-great-great-great-great-great grandson hunts for the history of an antique bat. In between these two boys lies the winding, circuitous history of both baseball and modern America, and the deeply individual stories of the men and women that connect them. Through war, peace, changes, and challenges, the joy and heartbreak of baseball links nine generations in a truly American love affair.
In my April Reading Roundup, I mentioned that I loved this book and I don't even like baseball. It's true. I don't get the game, (although it has a catchy theme song) and I consider baseball on TV the best cure for insomnia available. But the love that Alan Gratz, and his characters, have for the game shines through and even hooked this sports-hater. Some characters play, some characters spectate, some are merely passionate fans. At least one or two of the stories don't even include a game, but baseball is in there somewhere.
Several of these stories would have been a fascinating novel in their own right. I especially would have liked to know more about 1950's-era Jimmy, product of a teen pregnancy and growing up without a dad in the middle of one of the most conservative eras in recent history. But that's up to Gratz, and Jimmy's story was tightly written and complete in itself.
Gratz also hits several interesting spots in history--not only the Civil War, but also the New York Mafia world of the 20's and the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 40's. The thing that he really does well about this is to sit you down in the center of a world, with its own celebrities, hot brands, and slang, and show you events that happen as part of this world rather than Important Historical Moments. Once is pretty impressive. Eight consecutive times (since the last inning takes place in 2002) takes a combination of fine writing and crackerjack (ha!) research skills. Fine work, sir.
A good book for sports nuts, history buffs, and anybody who likes a game full of cracking good yarns.