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The Man with Two Arms: A Novel Hardcover – February 4, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This debut novel from Lombardo (The Logic of a Rose) follows ably in the cleat-prints of W.P. Kinsella and Bernard Malamud, chronicling the life of a talented Chicago pitcher. In their middle-class Chicago suburb of the mid-1980s, baseball nut Henry Granville and his wife, Lori, face marital discord regarding Henry's immediate, insistent campaign to commit their baby son Danny to a life in baseball. When Henry discovers his son's natural ambidexterity, visions of raising a superstar switch pitcher (an almost unheard-of athletic skill) kick his obsession into overdrive. One rocky boyhood later, Danny signs with the Cubs and finds instant fame (Danny can throw like Tom Seaver with one arm and Sandy Koufax with the other) as well as a bit of infamy; he's a freak in the eyes of opponents. Meanwhile, Danny falls in love with an art instructor and nurtures another rare talent: clairvoyance. Fans of sports fiction should find this an enjoyable trip to the mound, with just enough old-fashioned Americana magic to keep them guessing. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Henry wanted only one thing for his newborn son, Danny: for him to love baseball. And if he turns out to play it well, all the better. Danny was still in his infant seat when he attended his first Cubs game, and as a one-year-old, he could throw and catch. What Henry never expected was for Danny to become a phenomenon who could throw fastballs and curveballs with both hands. This special gift made him soar through the typical baseball ranks all the way to the majors. But Henry, a high-school teacher, is betrayed by one of his former students who writes an exposé about the father who pushed his child too hard and the freakish boy that resulted. Calling this novel a “baseball story” doesn’t do it justice; Lombardo’s prose is poetic and poignant. Readers who can suspend their disbelief will find the book haunting and beautiful. It is a lovely, timely debut novel about how, with certain celebrity, one’s personal life might be the fodder for public scrutiny. --Mary Frances Wilkens

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (February 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590203070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590203071
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,647,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Billy Lombardo is the author of four books of fiction: The Logic of a Rose: Chicago Stories (BkMk Press 2005), How to Hold a Woman (Other Voices 2009), The Man With Two Arms (Overlook 2010), and the forthcoming, The Day of the Palindrome (Razorbill 2013). He is also the author of Meanwhile, Roxy Mourns, a book of poetry/prose. Billy is the co-founder and managing editor of Polyphony H.S., an international student-run literary magazine for high school writers and editors. He was the 2011 Artist-in-Residence at Illinois Benedictine University, and currently teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at The Latin School of Chicago. He is the 2011 recipient of the Nelson Algren Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Greg Kozak on April 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In a style reminiscent of Mark Helprin, Lombardo layers a fabulous tale on top of our usual expectations and ends up with a yarn that infuses magic back onto the baseball field and extends it to the field of life. Released just as the real-world ambidextrous pitcher, Pat Venditte, started his climb to the majors, this story follows the birth and development of the perfectly symmetrical Danny Granville through his boyhood in Chicago into a hard throwing yet refreshingly good virtued big leaguer for the Cubs. While it sometimes borders on a paean to Chicago, it retains a universal appeal by expanding a love for the game into a palpable love for life.

Granville's father works obsessively to develop his talented son into a perfectly balanced thrower and hitter. This even-handed nurturing leads to a remarkably poised and controlled ball player whose ambidexterity builds upon itself to amplify his already formidable talents. Any lover of the national pastime will relish the descriptions of Granville's throwing motion, the flow of his swing, and his understanding of the art of the game.

Yet this tale is about more than baseball. As the playful title of the book alludes, "The Man with Two Arms" at first glance suggests a story of something superhuman, until read a second time when one realizes that it's merely describing a common human attribute through a lens that sees potential. Danny Granville's baseball balance may seem beyond our humble experience and grasp, but Lombardo suggests that achieving balance on and off the field leads to abilities that touch upon the mysteries of life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charlene A. Baumbich on September 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
I truly enjoyed this book. When I'm lost in a good story, I'm not bothered (an occasional hiccup, perhaps, but no slamming brakes) by typos and geographical inconsistencies. I just keep turning the pages. That's what I believe the author delivered: a unique human interest/baseball story in an engaging, sometimes poetic, manner. This is one of those books I touted as soon as I was done reading it. Months later, I still bring it up. I loved the concept and hope to read more by this author.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In Chicago Henry Granville loves baseball to the point that of when no game is on or in town, he reads The Natural to his unborn child. His pregnant wife Lori thinks it is cute until May 15, 1984 when Danny is born. Henry begins a determined campaign to turn his offspring into a baseball player while overturning Lori's objections. Danny proves a phenomena as he can throw with both arms.

Although childhood was hours of daily pitching ambidextrously, Danny signs with the Cubs who demonstrates a right handed skill equal to Seaver and a left handed ability compared with Koufax. Cub opponents especially on the road call him the Freak and his father a monster. As Danny falls in love with art instructor Brigit and finds another rare skill that of clairvoyance which will soon change his life in New York during a series with the Mets, he begins to doubt the Major Leagues is worth the cost to his family and himself.

This is a super baseball story due to the strong characterizations as fans will believe Henry is a super switch-pitching "Freak" (no link to Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum except for both are great). The support cast, especially his family, Brigit, and his teammates and opponents augment the deep look at a young pitching phenomena who grew up with a baseball rather than a rattle.

Harriet Klausner
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Megan Hauser on May 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I became certain Billy Lombardo's "The Man with Two Arms" takes place in a giddy fantasy world about two-thirds of the way through when references are made to a Jumbotron at Wrigley Field circa 2003.

Keep dreaming.

I picked up "Arms" at the library after hearing some good local press about it. It represents the intersection of two of my favorite things this time of year - the city of Chicago and baseball - so I figured I'd be primed to enjoy it. The kernel of the plot is an intriguing one: A baseball-obsessed father resolves to methodically mold his son, from the time the child is born, into a switch-pitcher by following a nearly scientific regimen of ambidextrous living. The boy excels and ends up being drafted by the Chicago Cubs at age 18. He rockets through the Minors and instructional leagues in about six months, gets an invitation to spring training at the beginning of the next season, makes the club, and by the All-Star Break has a pristine record featuring only wins (and no-decisions for the games blown by the bullpen).

Does that start sounding a little far-fetched by the end there? Lombardo's characters live in the real world - he lovingly includes precise (if not always accurate... see below) details about Chicago establishments and geography - but the events of the novel are not portrayed in that realistic context. His characters are likable enough but aren't given much room to grow and remain fairly static throughout the 20-year progression of the book. The main conflict of "Arms" is basically a non-issue that makes you wonder, "Is that all?" when you finally get to it. The plot becomes increasingly fantastic and rushed as the novel progresses and includes a mystical element that ends up sounding like a goofy afterthought.
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