Title: Calico Joe
Author: John Grisham
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Calico Joe is a novel about the baseball prodigy, Joe Castle, who makes his stunning debut in the majors by shattering countless records in the summer of 1973. Joe Castle becomes the idol to many, including eleven-year-old Paul Warren, whose father pitches for the New York Mets. Paul follows every game that Joe Castle plays in with the Chicago Cubs, up to the fateful match up between the Mets and the Cubs. Paul’s father, Warren, is nearing the end of his career and is obviously jealous of the rookie who has garnered everyone’s admiration. During the game, Warren throws a pitch at Castle that will never be forgotten and alters the course of his life and Castle’s life forever. Fast forward to present day and Warren Tracey is an aging old man with cancer. Paul is determined to reunite his father with Joe Castle so that he might apologize for the game that changed both of their lives.
Calico Joe is told from Paul Tracey’s perspective through flashbacks and present day narration. I think that the flashbacks are critical in order to illustrate the deterioration of Paul and Warren’s father-son relationship. An eleven-year-old Paul is a witness to Warren’s alcoholism, philandering, and arrogance that eventually drives Paul away from his father. I think that the delicate relationship between the two men is so well written and has an authentic feel. The flashbacks are also vital in introducing Joe Castle by providing details that show how important Castle was to so many people, including to Paul.
I think that Grisham did an incredible job creating likeable supporting characters and he kept their personalities consistent throughout the novel. I found Joe Castle to be really likeable, despite all of his early success. I really liked the family dynamic that Grisham built around him with Castle’s two brothers and the entire town of Calico Rock cheering him on. I thought that Clarence Rook, the newspaper editor, and his wife were really likeable characters as well.
I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this book because I thought it was going to be a “baseball book”. I found that Grisham gave the sport a supporting role and let the characters really shine throughout the story. Although baseball was always in the backdrop, Calico Joe focuses mostly on the characters and the journey for forgiveness. I thought that it was a really well written story and I believe that Grisham ended it perfectly.
If you have read Calico Joe, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Calico Joe on Amazon, please click here.