When you work in publishing, this happens more frequently than you might think--we read a lot of advance copies or manuscripts of books, and have to wait for the book to hit shelves (and then for your friends to get around to reading it!) we can sit down and properly analyze with others. We can imagine it happens to book reviewers--the first wave of readers of most books--as well.
And Spitball Magazine's Mark Schraf is having this problem with our wonderful baseball book The Man With Two Arms. The book came out in the spring, but as baseball season heats up, now is the perfect time to find yourself engrossed, as Mark was, in the funny and poignant novel about an ambidextrous pitcher. Read his full review here, and check out below for excerpts. If you're a baseball fan and haven't picked this book up yet, it makes a perfect read as teams claw their way into the playoffs come August and September. Enjoy!
Perhaps the greatest compliment a writer can be paid is to have his reader still thinking about his book months after the first reading. That is definitely the case with me and Billy Lombardo's novel, The Man With Two Arms, a sophisticated book with a deceptively simple title. In no other sport would true ambidexterity be so extraordinary (the only one I can think of that might come close is tennis, but the advantage isn’t nearly as pronounced), and it thus identifies Lombardo’s sparkling debut novel as unquestionably a baseball book. But it also establishes a primary theme as well: What is the true worth of athletic prowess, and just how unhealthy is hero worship for both the fan and the hero? After all, a ballplayer, no matter how great, is still just a man, isn’t he?
Lombardo’s writing style isn’t as flashy as, say Brendan Boyd’s in Blue Ruin, but it doesn’t have to be. He captures the inner dialog of a father who wants desperately to give his only son the very best possible chance to succeed in the game he so passionately loves. The game descriptions and conversation are both spot on. Characterization is strong, with no cardboard characters to be found, save for Danny’s first professional manager in the minors. (Although, to be fair, a worn out baseball lifer would most likely be gruff and profane.) The author deftly allows Danny’s thoughts, speech, actions, and reactions to grow in sophistication throughout the 20 year span of the story, so that the character and his dilemma are fully realized.
...Much of this novel’s thematic richness can’t be discussed in a book review, simply because this would give all the special secrets away that are so rewarding to discover and contemplate as you turn the last pages. So I have a plan: Read The Man with Two Arms, and let me know what you think. I’m dying to talk to somebody about this book!