Gloom and Boom Unhappy Hero, Spectacular Baseball Exploits Make for Well-Told Tale With Split Personality
By John Wilson
Nearly all baseball fiction is written on a plane of exaggeration in one respect or another. So it is with Sometimes You See It Coming. John Barr, the hero, could have been cloned from “The Natural” and its mythic protagonist, Roy Hobbs. And the comedy reminds of Dan Jenkins’ lunatic sports dreamworld. Barr shows up out of nowhere at a minor-league ballpark, unknown, unscouted, unfathomable. He goes on to major-league stardom, his background and the cause of his vacuum personality still mysteries.
The novel has a split personality. There is the mystery of Barr, the motor that drives the narrative. This part of the story is told in gloomy verisimilitude, an unhappy chronicle of a down-and-out, dysfunctional family. These sketches are sandwiched between slices of Barr’s baseball career, the diamond world painted in over-the-wall slapstick accompanied by Barr’s sometimes superhuman feats on the field.
Author Kevin Baker shows a remarkable understanding of baseball, and his fine storytelling in this first novel suggests even better things to come.
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