Since I bought an iPad at the beginning of the season, I’ve found myself reading a lot more. I really enjoy using it as a reader, however with that comes the frustration when one of the millions of books I get in the mail randomly from publishers to possibly review or mention on the site arrives in print form. I’ve gotten spoiled and tend to read e-books before I read print books now, but I decided to pick up the copy of Josh Grisham’s new novel, Calico Joe, to give it a look. I want to preface this post my mentioning that this was the first Grisham novel that I’ve ever read.

CALICO JOE: A surprising and moving novel of fathers and sons, forgiveness and redemption, set in the world of Major League Baseball…

The plot summary is a pretty simple one revolves around the life and career of two players.Warren Tracey, an aging fringe veteran starting pitcher for the Mets, and Joe Castle. a hot rookie first base prospect called up after an injury for a lowly Chicago Cubs team. The story is told by Tracey’s son, Paul, in relation to current day events. He recounts the summer of 1973 as he was growing up watching both his father, a deadbeat dad with alcohol and anger issues and Castle, his boyhood hero. Grisham shifts back and forth between the two players until finally coming together around the middle of the novel and then moves toward the present day with Warren Tracey on his deathbed from cancer.

Overall, I liked the story that Grisham paints. It’s heartfelt and light, and mixed in real life character’s so well that I found myself looking up Warren Tracey and Joe Castle on Baseball Reference just to make sure they were not real (they aren’t). However, as nice a touch as that was, I wasn’t pleased with how dominant he made Castle out to be. His character is a player that was called upon to fill in after an injury and not only Wally Pipped the guy he filled in for, but basically had the most dominant start to his career by far. I felt like the numbers he put up were too unrealistic, which turned me off a little on the character. To give you an idea what I’m talking about: “After thirty-one games, he had 62 hits in 119 at bats, with 18 home runs and 25 stolen bases. He had made one error at first and had struck out only six times.”

I was a little discouraged that I knew how the story was going to play out by about midway through, but I guess I figured that since it was a Grisham novel, it was supposed to be a suspenseful thriller. If you’re going into it with that mindset, you’re going to be dissappointed with the book. If you, instead, go into it looking for a nice baseball story then you’ll be a lot better off. In fact, I could see this one becoming a movie down the road because they story lends itself to a Hollywood format quite well.

On the whole, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to you. It’s a quick, easy read. I finished it in a weekend, so it’s the perfect novel for a weekend at the beach or something like that. I’ll give it 3 out of 5 stars.


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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail