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Posted August 14, 2012
Enthralling exploration of relationships, baseball and love
Not having grown up American, baseball’s a foreign sport to me, and the name Tyrus Cobb is an unknown. It’s kind of sad to think his father never saw him play baseball though—sadder still to think his mother maybe killed his father. But that’s just the prequel to J. Conrad Guest’s the Cobb Legacy. The story opens 100 years later with 50-year-old Cagney in therapy trying to determine the natures of love, sex and forgiveness while taking time off from writing his great American novel on the death of the baseball player’s father.
Affairs of the heart, the art of not getting caught, the thought that goes into psyching out a team-mate, lover or opponent, all are delved into here. The author tells me baseball is a thinking man’s game, and this novel invites thought and comparisons without belaboring its points. Dialog flows slow and smooth with the scent of cigars and cooked breakfast, and the introspective cadences of long friendship and blossoming care. While the protagonist seeks a clearer understanding of women and forgiveness for betrayal, readers will find themselves learning new insights into both women and men, and perhaps into themselves.
Different genders, different generations, different assumptions and rules are revealed in this game of eternal truths played through eternal differences. Chapters switch from Cagney’s flailing present to Cobb’s wounded past, linked by the mystery of dreams and the factual numbers of baseball. “Figures never lie,” thinks Cagney, wondering another time, “Ain’t it great to be living in America? Land of the free, home of the psychoanalyst.”
The Cobb Legacy balances the pursuit of happiness with the choice for happiness, presenting lives wounded by guilt and regret, scarred by lack of communication. The present-day dialog is convincing and absorbing, like sitting in a restaurant listening while strangers meet at the table opposite, half-wondering if they’re famous, half-guilty for learning so much about their lives. The recreation of the past is authentic too and nicely interspersed throughout the tale, adding a curiously disconnected depth. Threads come together with gentle touches of fate and there’s a satisfying completeness to the tale which goes beyond past and present into eternity.
I enjoyed this book for its powerful depiction of real lives, its gentle introspection, and its forgiveness. Kind at heart, honest in execution, and hopeful in its attitude to despair, it’s a drama of family relationships and compassion, and a truly enjoyable read.
Disclosure: I bought an ecopy of this book because I’ve enjoyed others of J. Conrad Guest’s novels. I think this one’s my favorite so far.