|Book Review: The Might have Been|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on May 08, 2012
Author: Joseph M. Schuster
Baseball doesn’t always love you back. It’s a tough game, one which in many aspects is totally unforgiving, especially if you are one of the thousands who don’t make the cut.
That’s something that comes through on every single page of Joseph Schuster’s debut novel. It’s a novel without glamour, without glitz. It’s about the hardness that the game, and the curves that life can throw at you. The only question is can you learn to hit them.
For Edward Everett Yates, the protagonist of this baseball novel that spans roughly four decades, it’s not the literal curveballs that are the issue, but the ones that fate throws at you. He’s a man with the passion for the game, the skill to make it to the big leagues, the desire, the drive and he gets the chance. One chance. Then that curveball comes at him.
The game of baseball teases him, and he can’t get it out of his blood. Making personal choices that might be bad ones, he follows his passion only to be reminded time and again that the game takes in healthy young men and often spits them right back out.
The story follows his career from the minors to his cup of coffee for the St. Louis Cardinals, right up to his days as a manager for a minor league team in an obscure corner of the world. Yates sees the game evolving inexorably from the days where “baseball men” ruled the roost via their guts and baseball knowledge and into the modern game where statistics, number crunching and Sabrmetrics often determine the directions a franchise might take.
He finds himself a dinosaur wandering the world, not sure where he fits in, his personal and professional life constantly changing with the capricious whims of the game he loves.
It’s a novel about fear, success, evolution and emotion. It’s about making choices, dealing with consequences and always moving forward. It’s about staring death in the eye and realizing what you regret, what you’ve lost and the triumphs you didn’t even know you had.
However it is not a quintessential baseball novel. It’s a novel first, and a baseball story second despite the vast amount of baseball that runs through it. While it is generally well written there is an inescapable sameness to the characters, especially the female characters, that bothered me.
It’s not Bernard Malamud’s The Natural or even Phillip Roth’s “The Great American Novel,” but it’s one of the better baseball novels to come out in the last few years.
Give it 1.5 Balls and enjoy it as a summer read as it’s just off the presses.
AtHomePlate.com writes its book reviews with the following rating scale in mind:
Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book store to get a copy.
Three Balls: This book stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Two Balls: A book worth reading/owning and is usually above average.
One Ball: This book has something to say but is nothing special.