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Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings

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  • Posted July 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Makes me care about the characters and the sport.

    I'm not really into sports, but the cover of J. Conrad Guest's novel, Backstop, has a woman's hand holding the ball and promises A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings. So I learn there are nine innings in a baseball game.

    I grew up English so I started this novel knowing very little about baseball-it includes a bat, a ball, and the need to run, but it's not cricket. Still, the narrator, Backstop, describes his sport and his life in this book in a way that makes me care about him and the game. Sometimes it's like listening to the guys in my family discuss football (soccer to the uninitiated). I can almost join in. I'm having fun.

    J. Conrad Guest's novel feels very personable, and really is fun. I want Backstop's team to win. I want the right sort of ball. I watch to see the arm before its release-how fast will it fly?-and I listen for the crack to resound in the air. Meanwhile I learn of a young man first succumbing to then overcoming the advances of female sports fans. He wants more of life-I want more for him. He meets a girl.

    The reader follows the love story, as promised, while following the game. It's an important game, an important love too, and either could be lost; commitment, trust, faithfulness. and coping with betrayal. On the field there's the player who always annoys, but perhaps still has true advice to give. Off the field there's hope.

    So now I know a little more about baseball, and a little more of love. I have a sympathy for sportsmen I might not have had before, after seeing the hard sides of temptation. And I feel like I've spent time with someone honest and interesting, who loves a sport and a woman and is well worth knowing for both. Backstop's a read where slow development contrasts with fast balls, slow plans with hurried mistakes, and slow reading with quickened excitement and delight. The dialog has a sweet old-fashioned feel, pleasant humor, and serious depth, and the whole is a seriously enjoyable tale.

    Disclosure: I was given a free copy of Backstop by the author, no strings attached, and chose to write a review.

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