May 23, 2011

Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella

Title:  Shoeless Joe
Author:  W. P. Kinsella
Format:  PB
Pages:  224
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Ballantine, 1983
ISBN-13:  978-0345309211
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quotes:  "If I'd only got to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy."

"They'll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it, and arrive at your door, innocent as children, longing for the gentility of the past, for home-canned preserves, ice cream made in a wooden freezer, gingham dresses, and black-and-silver stoves with high warming ovens and cast iron reservoirs."

Synopsis (Back Cover):  The voice of a baseball announcer tells the Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella: "If you build it, he will come." "He" is Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ray's hero. "It" is a baseball stadium which Ray carves out of his cornfield.  SHOELESS JOE is about baseball. But it's also about love and the power of dreams to make people come alive.  Will you be among the Iowa dreamers who can see a cornfield stadium filled with baseball's greatest heroes?

Review:  Oh, this is a tough book to review.  It is a great story.  The characters are so well written and the story so well told that I believed every word.  I wonder, if I drove to Iowa tonight, could I see the game being played by Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of eight 'Black Sox'?  A few other players join in, including a player named Moonlight Graham, who only ever played one inning before becoming a doctor, and Johnny Kinsella, Ray's long-dead father, who returns as a much younger man.

The problem with reviewing this book is one of my all-time favorite movies, Field of Dreams, is based upon this story.  The movie is on my top five movie list.  And, enough of the story was changed in the making of the movie, that I found myself thinking, 'but, that's not what happened!'.  It's almost unheard of for a movie to outdo a book, but I'm afraid in this instance it's true.

The changes?  There are mostly small ones and I won't mention them.  The main one, however, surrounds one of the main characters.  The author who Ray drives across the country to find is J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye, rather than the movie's pseudo-political writer from the 60's named Mann, played so effortlessly by James Earl Jones.  Since I honestly dislike Salinger, it wasn't a change I found appealing.

But, I will put aside my love of the movie.  The bottom line is this:  I knew what was going to happen.  How could I not?  I've seen the movie a dozen times.  It didn't matter.  I still read it with relish.  It made me want to believe, it touched me and made me think.  I got teary-eyed when Moonlight Graham stepped off the field to become the much older Doc Graham to save Ray's daughter from choking.  And, when a book makes you feel, really feel, isn't that the definition of good fiction?  I'd highly recommend this story to anyone.

Rating:  8.5 / 10


  1. Hi
    You've written an excellent review thanks. Must admit I have a soft spot for the film as it brings back memories - don't think I would probably pick up the book for that reason - but it was great to read this - it took me back.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Lynn! I really can't say it's probably the best book for someone who loves the movie, that's for sure. But I was curious.


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