October 20, 2012

Review of Calico Joe by John Grisham


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

Whatever happened to Calico Joe?

     It began quietly enough with a pulled hamstring. The first baseman for the Cubs AAA affiliate in Wichita went down as he rounded third and headed for home. The next day, Jim Hickman, the first baseman for the Cubs, injured his back. The team suddenly needed someone to play first, so they reached down to their AA club in Midland, Texas, and called up a twenty-one-year-old named Joe Castle. He was the hottest player in AA and creating a buzz.

In the summer of 1973 Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen.  The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records.

Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher. On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his Dad. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever…

In John Grisham’s new novel the baseball is thrilling, but it’s what happens off the field that makes CALICO JOE a classic.

Calico Joe  by John Grisham
Publication Date:  April 10, 2012
Publisher:  Doubleday
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** This title was provided to us by the Publisher for an honest review.
We were in no way paid for our opinions **

I’ll be completely honest with you guys: I do not watch baseball. The sport doesn’t appeal to me, I’m personally more into contact sports and since I cannot catch/hit/throw a ball—I don’t watch sports that involve the word ball in them. So, when I began reading what Calico Joe by John Grisham was about, my first initial thought went something along the lines of:

Shmurr” and “this actually sounds kinda cool…

What had me really interested was reading the opening sentence to Calico Joe, it mentioned the main character Paul Tracey’s father having had surgery and discovering that he only had a few months left to live. That sounded interesting and right off the hop, I suspected that Calico Joe would be a novel about a father and son trying to maybe hold onto a relationship before death or something— That’s not the case in this novel. There is no heartfelt relationship between Paul Tracey and his once upon a time professional baseball player father Warren Trace.

Warren Tracey was a lady’s man, he married Paul’s mother after being high school sweethearts and had two children. Warren Tracey wasn’t a loyal man… and by that I mean he couldn’t keep his jeans zipped up. Warren was an abusive father and whenever he would go to Paul’s baseball games it would end with criticism and (you guessed it) abuse. Verbal and physical and (in some cases) emotional. Warren ended up divorcing Paul’s mother and never really wanted to see his children again afterward.

I found that whenever I read about Warren’s relationship with his family, I would become really depressed. And I mean that in a good way! Personally, it just kinda left a pit in my stomach and I like to imagine that secretly Paul wanted his dad to be like a normal father who just wanted to love him.

When the novel starts off, it’s a mix of present happenings and an introduction to Joe Castle a.k.a. Calico Joe. I don’t watch baseball, as I stated above. I don’t watch the sport, I personally don’t enjoy it—but as a person who has never had a background with baseball I found it quite interesting how Grisham managed to craft descriptions in a way that made me able to visualize scenes when it came to Joe Castle’s career. But also, as a person who knows nothing about baseball, there were a lot of times where I would read about a certain “baseball term” and kinda be like… “wait what?” and have to pull up what it meant on my phone.

The novel focuses on Paul Tracey as he visits his father in his final moments and attempts to get him to come to see Joe Castle and make amends after ruining Joe’s baseball career. Warren eventually agrees and the two go on an adventure to see whatever happened to Joe Castle after Warren let his pride and ego mess everything up. With the story focusing on the mystery of if Warren and Joe will finally fix up the bridges that were burned down I had to wonder:

Would Warren apologize to Paul? Would there be a moment for me to sob as Warren apologizes on his deathbed? Sadly, I didn’t get to cry. Which I was hoping would happen. There were no heartfelt father-son goodbyes and I have to admit that it did leave this teen reader very disappointed.

I would recommend Calico Joe to readers who are fans of baseball and want a story with tons of adventure.

 About the Author:

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, and The Broker) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marks his first foray into non-fiction.

Grisham lives with his wife Renee and their two children Ty and Shea. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.

Connect with the author:  Website / Facebook / Goodreads

Available for Purchase:

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  1. Gary Anderson

    Great review! I thought Calico Joe was terrific, easily the best of Grisham’s sports books, and one of my all-time favorite baseball books. The moment when Paul and Joe meet face-to-face after so many years is emotional, and Grisham completely earns every bit of that emotion. Thanks.

  2. Chapter by Chapter

    Thanks for stopping by! It so well written and pulled at my heart strings. My first baseball book and it was wonderful!

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