Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Book Review: "The Might Have Been" by Joe Schuster
I'll admit I was a little wary of reading another baseball novel just a few months after reading Chad Harbach's fantastic The Art of Fielding, but I needn't have worried. Joe Schuster's debut novel, The Might Have Been, has baseball more at its core than Harbach's book, but it is captivating and affecting in its own quiet way.
When the book starts in the mid-1970s, Edward Everett Yates is a baseball player who has been in the minor leagues for 10 years, but still believes he will one day get called up to the majors. And one day he does, to play (at least temporarily) for the St. Louis Cardinals. He is determined to show the team all he can doand in the midst of a spectacular game, he sustains a severe knee injury that affects him for the rest of his life. This moment haunts him and is the catalyst for a number of questionable opportunities he sacrifices throughout his liferelationships with women he loves, the chance for a family, a lucrative job, and security. The book then follows him 40 years later, as the manager of a failing minor league team in Perabo City, Iowa. Edward Everett struggles with players both destined for future success and those for whom success in baseball is not in the cards, and he wonders if a life in baseball was really worth all of his energy.
This is a book in which nothing tremendously earth-shattering happens, but it is a beautifully written, affecting one all the same. Anyone whom has ever chased a dream, sacrificing everything that got in the way of that singular focus, can identify with Edward Everett and his struggles. While at times the decisions he makes are frustrating, you can understand why he does the things he does, and you find yourself hoping that perhaps this time, things will go his way. This is a book about baseball and a book about a life lived in its shadow, and it is a great read.