This is an auspicious, audacious debut novel about self-discovery. Set at a middling liberal arts college on the shores of Lake Michigan, it is loosely based on Melville's Moby Dick, with baseball substituting for whaling. Like most baseball games, it starts slow, but the momentum builds as the season progresses. One player succumbs to an existential crisis as the team finally begins to have some success. America's other favorite pastime appears when Pella, the college president's prodigal daughter, who is fleeing an unhappy marriage, shows up. As part of her recovery, she beds two of the players just as her father embarks on his own romp in Cupid's grove.
Along with baseball and sex, Harbach conjures up another American preoccupation-reinvention-as the final game approaches. It may sound formulaic, but somehow he makes it seem new and exciting. There are some inventive plot twists which had me sobbing and cheering simultaneously. I'm not sure how it will go over with my book club but for me it was almost a home run. I say almost because there is some clunky prose and some of the worst names to ever appear in fiction.