A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
"In The Cactus League [Emily Nemens] provides her readers with what amounts to a miniature, self-enclosed world that is funny and poignant and lovingly observed." Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. One of The Wall Street Journal's 10 New Books You Should Be Picking Up First In 2020 and one of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2020
An explosive, character-driven odyssey through the world of baseball from Emily Nemens, the editor of The Paris Review
Jason Goodyear is the star outfielder for the Los Angeles Lions, stationed with the rest of his team in the punishingly hot Arizona desert for their annual spring training. Handsome, famous, and talented, Goodyear is nonetheless coming apart at the seams. And the coaches, writers, wives, girlfriends, petty criminals, and diehard fans following his every move are eager to find out whyas they hide secrets of their own.
Humming with the energy of a ballpark before the first pitch, Emily Nemens's The Cactus League unravels the tightly connected web of people behind a seemingly linear game. Narrated by a sportscaster, Goodyear’s story is interspersed with tales of Michael Taylor, a batting coach trying to stay relevant; Tamara Rowland, a resourceful spring-training paramour, looking for one last catch; Herb Allison, a legendary sports agent grappling with his decline; and a plethora of other richly drawn characters, all striving to be seen as the season approaches. It’s a journey that, like the Arizona desert, brims with both possibility and destruction.
Anchored by an expert knowledge of baseball’s inner workings, Emily Nemens's The Cactus League is a propulsive and deeply human debut that captures a strange desert world that is both exciting and unforgiving, where the most crucial games are the ones played off the field.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Emily Nemens is the editor of The Paris Review. She was previously the co-editor of The Southern Review. Her work has been published in Esquire, n+1, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart and elsewhere, and she is the author of The Cactus League.
Nemens has written a baseball novel that captivated this complete baseball novice. With a panoramic scope, she delineates the corrosive effects of heartbreak and hope on a cast of characters as real and weathered as the McDowell Mountains she flings them against. I loved it!
Emily Nemens’ “The Cactus League,” a novel in interrelated stories, looks at the behind-the-scenes lives of players, coaches and fans at the beginning of one spring season in Arizona for the fictional Los Angeles Lions baseball team. Linked by the musings of a recently unemployed sportswriter, the stories explore the marital issues, financial woes, health problems and romantic yearnings of a cast of characters who then briefly appear in other stories (similar to the structure of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge books or Tom Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists”). I enjoyed this structure a lot—the stories (packaged here as “innings”) felt complete on their own and if there was a character or plot line I wasn’t crazy about (I’m looking at you, Tami!), it wasn’t long until a new character and story took over. Each of these smaller narratives, however, contributed to the novel’s overarching storyline of Lions phenom Jason Goodyear, whose seemingly perfect life is spiraling out of control, and this narrative through line gave “Cactus League” a sense of momentum and continuity that kept me engaged throughout. If you’re looking for some light spring reading to get you in the mood for baseball, “The Cactus League” is a great choice.
There is a rhythm to the game that those who are familiar with it can sense. The flip to start the double play, the throw back to the catcher, the tapping of the dirt off the cleats… Nemens captures much of the game in nine emotion -filled chapters. The characters run the gamut of the baseball world. There’s the superstar whose game is at its peak, but whose home life is filled with conflict. The rookie and the aging batting coach. The women who wait at the player’s gate and the rookies who don’t know what to do with their newly acquired disposable income. Each character is drawn with skill. I didn’t mind meeting new characters as the story progressed because it made me excited to see how they would be woven into the plot. Speaking of… it’s definitely hard to start to describe the plot. I think it’s best to stick to generalities and just say that this story is one of spring. Beginnings: new season, new opportunities… and endings: possible retirements, break ups, and a change of status on the depth chart. Just a bit of a forewarning… This isn’t a book that’s action lies between the lines. The drama is off the field, in the clubhouse or the desert condo. And the only criticism I have is that the author uses a storytelling device by where the story is being told by a reporter. At times it’s a bit distracting from the central story. Recommended for those looking to read a very good novel about the lives of people around big league sports.