4 out of 5 stars
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Stand on the Bench, Achilles by Chris Baldwin is a tale of passion and sacrifice.
It follows a baseball team, the diverse people that it comprises, and their quest to win a tournament. From the manager down to the players, each person must make sacrifices for the common goal. Regardless of the motivation, the team will need talent, skill, and sheer determination to create an epic season. But no amount of planning can make up for the fact that baseball is an unpredictable sport, and players are unpredictable people. Will they succeed? Or will they end up in pain?
My favorite thing about this book was the character development. I liked that we got to know the characters better as the book progressed, each with their different mindsets, beliefs, and habits. The point of view shifted several times, giving us more insight into the characters' minds. For instance, rather than just describing Patrick Klee as "talented but unsure" and leaving it there, the author unraveled that aspect of the character through their thoughts, actions, and other people's thoughts. It made me feel like I completely grasped the characters and what they could or couldn't do. I felt the same anxiety that the other players, and even Klee himself, felt whenever he was called to pitch.
The interaction between the characters felt real. It was humorous, and it added life to the book. I felt the camaraderie, supportiveness, and underlying competitiveness flowing through the team.
The author's writing held the story together. It could have been a bland description of baseball games, but he had a way of writing that made the reader feel welcomed into the described world and put them at ease.
Stand on the Bench, Achilles is such a niche book. Most of this book will go over your head if you have not gained prior baseball knowledge. It is heavily centered on baseball and does not attempt to explain the sport or the terminologies. It takes an appreciation of baseball, specifically how it was played in the 1920s, to enjoy this book.
The book described each game that was played in extreme detail. Since there were several of these games, the narrative dragged on at several points. It even sounded repetitive at times. I looked up some unfamiliar game rules to better understand the book. Without passion for the sport, getting lost in all the details would be easy. A glossary of terminologies would have helped.
I'd rate this book 4 out of 5 stars. One star was deducted because some parts dragged on and felt repetitive. I'd recommend it to lovers of historical fiction and baseball-related books.
Stand on the Bench, Achilles
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