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176 of 191 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short But Satisfying
Calico Joe had every kid's baseball fantasy - lightening start in his big league debut, the lifting of a sad-sack team (the Cubs) to contender status, broken records, the adulation of his teammates and fans - and then he didn't. John Grisham has written a very good and captivating story - more than a baseball story, though America's game is the canvass upon which this...
Published on March 23, 2012 by Wayne A. Smith

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weak effort...
John Grisham can be a great writer. He's written chapters where there is excitement around someone using a copier. Calico Joe though is a very weak story. The only positive aspect was it's length...it's very short. Frankly, this should have been a short story. This just seemed like a half-hearted effort.

As for the actual story...The character development is...
Published 23 months ago by Ken Esq


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176 of 191 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short But Satisfying, March 23, 2012
This review is from: Calico Joe (Hardcover)
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Calico Joe had every kid's baseball fantasy - lightening start in his big league debut, the lifting of a sad-sack team (the Cubs) to contender status, broken records, the adulation of his teammates and fans - and then he didn't. John Grisham has written a very good and captivating story - more than a baseball story, though America's game is the canvass upon which this tragedy is painted.

Warren Tracey was also a big leaguer - a pitcher - with the kind of stats that define most careers in the bigs: occasionally good, usually mediocre and sometimes awful. He was destined to never be remembered except by trivia hounds once his career reached its uncelebrated end - until his involvement in a baseball drama that ensured his name would be written in baseball lore, though not in any manner he would have desired.

The story is told through the eyes of Warren's eleven year old boy Paul and alternates between 1973, the year Calico Joe and Warren were in the game together, and thirty years later when all three characters are still living lives vastly influenced by the events of that year. Warren not only contributed to one of the game's great "what ifs," but also through his wretched performance as a father and husband, ensured that his family would bear the influence of being of and with Warren Tracey.

I won't go into more because detail would give away the drama to this slim book. Although not nearly as long as most Grisham novels, this story is worth the read. It is perfect for a single-evening immersion, so if you are the type of reader who likes to occasionally fully immerse yourself for a couple of hours with a good story and see it through to the end, this is your book. It reminded me somewhat of Grisham's book "The Testament" in that it touches on some of the same themes. It also is in the vein of "Bleachers" and "Painted House."

A good, though short, story that is engaging with a satisfying conclusion.
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200 of 228 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story of fathers, sons, regrets, and forgiveness, March 21, 2012
This review is from: Calico Joe (Hardcover)
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This was really 4 1/2 stars for me. I love baseball and John Grisham's books, so I was not surprised at my response to this book.

Often, young athletes take plenty of sideline coaching from their Dads, and it is not always positive. Paul Tracey had it harder than most as his dad was Warren Tracey, a major league pitcher. When Warren was playing for the Mets, one play involving a rookie will ruin their carreers with one pitch; and not just any rookie, but one that was breaking records from his first at bat in the major leagues, Joe Castle aka Calico Joe.

that one play ruined both careers and this is the story of what happened when the spotlight dimmed. 30 years later, Paul Tracey attempts to re-unite the two players. Will both parties agree to meet? Will the truth be told after all these years? Will forgiveness be withheld or given? Will a father and son finally come to terms with their relationship?

To find out you will have to read this memorable story filled with wonderfully developed characters and love, hate, forgiveness, and redeemation.

It is not just a baseball story.
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59 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grisham pitches another winner, March 26, 2012
This review is from: Calico Joe (Hardcover)
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Calico Joe---John Grisham
One of America's best storytellers, Grisham departs from his usual tales of crime and trials to write a baseball story. This book tells the story of a small town Arkansas boy who bursts on the sports world in 1973 to become an instant sensation. Alas, his career is to be very short. But the reason for that is for the telling.
Grisham alternates between the 1973 story and the modern day and flows easily between the two. His baseball knowledge is extensive but,unlike what often happens in baseball, he does not allow the book to become mired in minutia and statistics. He gives just enough baseball information as needed to move the storyline. Baseball fans will certainly appreciate that he blends real players from 1973, from multiple teams, with fictitious ones. Non-baseball fans will enjoy the book as well because it has well developed characters and a moving story.
Grisham has another hit with this new book. It is good to see an extremely successful writer willing to use his talent to write a story that veers from his usual courtroom/crime formula.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Grisham: Gripping and Riveting Story, April 28, 2012
By 
Zack Ford (Louisville, KY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Calico Joe (Hardcover)
"What if a pitcher intentionally hit a batter, a young star? What if both careers were ruined? And what if they met years later to try to come to grips with what happened in a split second?" These are some of the opening words of John Grisham to the reader explaining his rationale for writing this book.

I must say, I began this book very conflicted. First off, I am not a big baseball fan, AT ALL! The sport has always bored me and I have had no interest in it whatsoever. However, John Grisham is one of my absolute favorite authors. So here was the dilemma I was in: My favorite author writing on one of my least favorite topics. How would it go?

After finishing the book, I was not conflicted at all! I absolutely loved the book. While the book definitely centers around baseball as the skeleton for its storyline, it moves in the same rapid and gripping style that one would expect from a Grisham book. Your emotions are stirred to love Joe Castle and hate Warren Tracey, but just when you think you have it all figured out, you begin to have just a little bit of compassion for Tracey and are conflicted in your emotions.

I think that Grisham found the perfect harmony between length and in-depth details in this work. There is enough baseball jargon to engage the avid fan, but not enough to turn away someone like myself.

Go buy the book and enjoy this short, but excellently written piece of American fiction. Grisham has hit one out of the park in this one (pun intended).

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Doubleday Publishing for providing me with a review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weak effort..., May 9, 2012
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John Grisham can be a great writer. He's written chapters where there is excitement around someone using a copier. Calico Joe though is a very weak story. The only positive aspect was it's length...it's very short. Frankly, this should have been a short story. This just seemed like a half-hearted effort.

As for the actual story...The character development is weak...and the ending is rather predictable yet unsatisfying. Perhaps Mr. Grisham should leave the baseball books to others and stick to writing thrillers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief but enjoyable, April 2, 2012
This review is from: Calico Joe (Hardcover)
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I was kind of split on this book before I started reading it. I've always enjoyed Grisham's legal thrillers more than his other novels, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought I might like the baseball piece more than the family piece, but I found the opposite to be true.

Without recounting the plot, which has been done nicely by many others already, I'll say that the brevity of the novel did hamper slightly the development of its characters. Paul Tracey, the lead, is well-developed, but his father, as well as his baseball idol Joe Castle, don't seem to have much in the way of complexity. Maybe that's what Grisham was going for, but I thought it detracted slightly from the book since they were both critical components. At the same time brevity may have negatively impacted character development, I believe in some ways it also helped by keeping the story moving briskly and never becoming bogged down in unnecessary detail.

As a huge baseball fan, I did have some issues with Joe and his performance. I understand how Grisham was trying to present his meteoric rise, but it went well beyond the believable pretty quickly. I think he could have presented Castle's rise without Little League-type hitting numbers, but that's really a minor complaint. I did like the manner in which these fictional characters were mixed in with actual players of the era (Mays, Seaver, Oates, etc.).

Overall, I'd say that this one got better as it went along and became less about baseball and more about the father/son relationship. Baseball is a central part of the driving action in the novel, but I felt like its role was slightly confused. Does Paul love the game, or hate it for what it did to his family? Again, maybe I'm just hung up on this because I'm a fan of the game. Either way, this is still what I would consider Grisham's best non-thriller book to date and I'd recommend it.
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35 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shallow, far fetched, sappy, but fun read, April 3, 2012
This review is from: Calico Joe (Hardcover)
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This book will never be confused with literature, but it is an easy, quick, and sappy baseball story that will be a fun read for baseball fans. Grisham has a tendency to find a sport and then craft a story around something that gives him an excuse to write a short novella. I've read Bleachers, and Playing for Pizza. While Bleachers had more of a story line and it had a more serious message, Calico Joe is sort of caught between a couple of concepts and just doesn't get there entirely.

There is an attempt to take on the old "bean ball" mentality of early vintage baseball and Grisham gets a little preachy on that topic. The brushback pitch was a standard in the old days when a hitter got a little too much to handle. Grisham brings this topic to the forefront as a collision of a new career hitter and the end of an "old line" career pitcher comes down the pages careening out of control. The reader sees it coming from the opening pages and Grisham does little to hide what's coming. It is like using the Hitchcock movie method, but there is never attempting to add an element of surprise. I expected something - anything, but the story was pretty vanilla.

Trying to fit a broken home life, a mistreated kid, an angry and ill tempered aging pitcher with a character that fits a little better in the movie, The Natural, all in less than 200 very lightly written pages, Grisham has stretched any level of character credibility.

The reason that I did enjoy reading it has more to do with loving a baseball story than reading a good baseball story. I do think that it is enjoyable, but there are plenty of flaws that make it just an average 3 star rating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "baseball book" that fans and non-fans alike will enjoy, April 20, 2012
This review is from: Calico Joe (Hardcover)
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With Calico Joe, Grisham presents the reader with an intriguing departure from his traditional lawyer-based genre. Having always enjoyed Grisham's novels, and as a long-time baseball fan, I welcomed an opportunity to preview Calico Joe. Overall, I enjoyed the story a great deal. It was a quick read that I consumed over a day or two while on vacation last week. Although not a page turner with a gripping climax like some of Grisham's other works, Calico Joe kept a steady pace and held my interest from start to finish. I liked the way that Grisham effectively bounced back and forth from the present to the past to tell his story.

As someone who lived in both the Chicago and New York City areas in the early `70's and had a detailed knowledge of the players on both the Mets and the Cubs from watching many games on TV, the inclusion of actual players in this fictional work provided me with a nostalgic trip down memory lane that was an added bonus. Although I was drawn to the book due to the baseball theme, I don't think one need in any way to be a baseball fan to enjoy this book. Baseball provides the context but there is plenty to the story for a non-fan to enjoy. (In fact, my wife, who dislikes baseball, is reading the book right now and based on her comments to me seems to be enjoying it as well.) Pick this up and give it a try.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As leisurely as the sport at its heart, April 14, 2012
This review is from: Calico Joe (Hardcover)
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Calico Joe is John Grisham's second sports novel. He used football as the backdrop for Bleachers and writes about baseball in Calico Joe. Neither book is really about their respective sport, though an understanding of baseball will undoubtedly enhance one's enjoyment of Calico Joe, filled as it is with play-by-plays and statistics. Both books feature tyrants. Bleachers had a coach and Calico Joe has a father who was a professional baseball player. In both books, the main character has to come to terms with the tyrant in their final days.

Paul Tracey might have become a Major League pitcher, following in the footsteps of his father, Warren. His juvenile performance was noteworthy, and he made it to the All-Star game as a teenager. However, his father wasn't exactly an inspiration. His career was undistinguished, and the only record he held was for hitting the most batters while pitching. A cruel man who drank too much, caroused, and spent more time away from home than necessary, the elder Tracey beat his wife and terrorized his kids. His family looked forward to baseball season not because they took any pride in his accomplishments but because he would be on the road often and they could live relatively normal lives.

Joe Castle from Calico Rock, Arkansas came out of the Minor Leagues with a bang, hitting a home run at his first at-bat and two more in his first game. He went on to set the record for hitting safely in the most consecutive games, often with a home run but sometimes using a sly bunt. On base, he took advantage of his speed to steal base after base, pushing his team to victory. Even after his streak ended, he continued to be a threat, with a battering average well over 0.500. His presence turned the flagging Chicago Cubs into contenders. Dubbed Calico Joe, the young man became an overnight celebrity.

Paul is eleven years old the day in 1973 he watches his father, the Mets' fourth pitcher, open against the Cubs. His father has been pitching well lately, silencing some of the rumbles in the press encouraging the team to get rid of him. Paul doesn't know who to root for. He is a big fan of Calico Joe, but he feels he should be loyal to his father, too, despite their history. When Joe hits a home run, Paul knows what will happen next. Warren Tracey lives by an old baseball code about putting rookie players in their place. The next time Calico Joe goes to the plate is the last time he will ever face a pitcher.

News that Paul's father is dying re-opens the old wound. Paul has never watched another baseball game since that day. His children can't understand how their great father can have such a miserable father of his own--Warren Tracey has no use for his relatives. He left Paul's mother and remarried several times in the intervening thirty years. Paul has never met Warren's current wife and isn't even sure if she's number five or six. Paul's sister has no interest in visiting the old man in Florida, where he's about to undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer. Neither does Paul's mother.

Paul sets out on a road trip, making one stop before he gets to Florida. Though he doesn't expect anyone named Tracey will receive a warm welcome in Calico Rock, he has an idea--a mission, some might call it. The problem is: he might not be able to get either party to cooperate.

Like Bleachers, Calico Joe is a slight book, less than 200 pages. It's by no means a thriller--one might call it a fable or a morality tale, instead. It's a book about last chances and making amends and getting other people to face up to their shortcomings. It's a story governed more by emotion than suspense. Grisham pulls out all the stops to manipulate his readers.

Paul is a sympathetic lead, though perhaps a little too good to be completely credible, whereas his father, Warren, has few redeeming qualities. Joe Castle, too, is painted in broad strokes, the eager young kid who rises to the occasion to become an overnight superstar while remaining a small-town kid at heart. Sophisticated characterization has never been Grisham's strong suit. The richest, most interesting character is the man who runs the newspaper in Calico Rock, a colorful old coot who introduces Paul to the wonders of moonshine while acting as a broker between him and the publicity-shy Castle family.

Grisham does a fine job, though, of capturing the essence of a young boy's fascination with a sport in the era before cable TV, when many games were heard only on the radio or read about in the next day's newspaper. This is a swift read, though the story proceeds at the sedate pace of the very sport at its heart.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best non-legal thriller Grisham has written, May 15, 2012
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I've read all of John Grisham's books. Nothing can top his legal thrillers, so comparing this book to his classics like "A Time to Kill" and my personal favorite, "The Chamber", would be unfair. I did not like "A Painted House" very much, and "Playing for Pizza" was somewhere between a 3 and 4, just to give you an idea of what I was comparing this book to.

"Calico Joe" is fantastic. I read it in two nights - which for me, is speed-reading. Any baseball fan will love this book, and anyone who played organized baseball will find a way to sympathize with both the victim and the villain. Grisham found a way to invoke some twists into the story - even when the reader knows what's going to happen. Grisham sets the stage for drama on the baseball diamond - drama that only one person can see coming.

It is definitely worth the purchase.
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Calico Joe
Calico Joe by John Grisham (Hardcover - April 10, 2012)
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