Sunday Salon Review: Calico Joe

Calico JoeCalico Joe by John Grisham

Release date: 2012 / 208  pages

Synopsis (from In the summer of 1973 Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen.  The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records.  Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher. On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his Dad. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever…

 Review: Whether reading one of his signature legal thrillers or a novel outside his usual milieu, like Skipping Christmas, Playing for Pizza, or A Painted House, fans anticipate Grisham’s ability to craft a veritable setting, compelling characters, and an engrossing plot. Grisham has been waiting for a baseball story to inspire him — Calico Joe was worth the wait.
Calico Joe is the story of two major league baseball players: Joe Castle, an exceptional rookie who inspires all who watch him play, and Warren Tracey, a violent alcoholic who never lived up to his potential and punishes those around him as a result. The protagonist, Paul Tracey, has the misfortune of being the son of the latter; his childhood is defined by these two men as he attempts to navigate his ambivalent feelings about his father and the sport of baseball. In classic Grisham fashion, the characters are unambiguously good or evil; however, the defining conflict of the novel is satisfactorily complex and forces the reader to contemplate the unwritten codes of baseball and the power of redemption.
Calico Joe’s structure traverses the past and the present, gaining momentum and building suspense — in the past by anticipating Joe and Warren’s meeting on the mound and in the present as Paul attempts to gain access to his former hero. Grisham, a baseball fan himself, includes fast-paced, play-by-play action and although Calico Joe is fictional, Grisham’s use of real names from baseball’s past creates an authentic atmosphere that will whet any fan’s appetite for the upcoming season.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for asking me to read and review this!


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10 Responses to Sunday Salon Review: Calico Joe

  1. Peg Sperli says:

    Kristen, Would this be appropriate reading for high school boys? They love baseball. Thanks.

  2. Kristen says:

    Hi Peg — While the subject matter is not inappropriate for high school boys, I’m not sure they would appreciate the themes — the focus is more on father-son relationships (and how fathers disappoint their sons) as well as on how we determine our heroes. Baseball actually isn’t the focus, in many respects…

  3. Margaret Allen says:

    Do you have discussion questions for book club for John Grisham’s Calico Joe?

  4. Robin Drake says:

    I too would like discussion questions for a book club on this book. Thanks

  5. Wanda Dixon says:

    I would like discussion questions for my book club on this book. Calico Joe by John Grisham

  6. Taylorville Public Library says:

    Our library has a book club, and I have been searching the internet for discussion questions regarding Calico Joe and have found none. If there is someone that could email some questions within the coming week, it would be much appreciated!! Thank you!
    – Alia (Circulation Librarian)

  7. Karen Rhodes says:

    I, too, would like a list of book club discussion questions for Calico Joe by John Grisham
    Karen Rhodes.

  8. Crystal Barnes says:

    Our bookclub is also looking for discussion questions. Please email if you have had any luck.

  9. michelle leno says:

    • Why did Warren throw the beanball? What were his intentions?
    • Describe the relationship between Paul and Warren?
    • Why did it mean so much to Paul to see Warren and Joe meet again? Was it a good idea?
    • If you were Joe, how would you have reacted to Warren 30 years later?
    • At the end, how does Joe feel about Warren? Does he forgive him?
    • How does Paul feel about Warren at the end? Does he forgive him?
    • Why didn’t Paul want Warren’s money?
    • Should a pitcher ever intentionally hit a batter? Why or why not?
    • How were Warren, Joe and Paul’s lives impacted by that one pitch on 8/24/73?
    • Describe the conflict that Paul felt when watching his dad pitch against Joe.
    • What athlete or individual do you admire the way that Paul admired Joe? What do you like about that person?
    • What do you think of Warren’s statement, “it’s sports. Bad things happen.”?

  10. Kristen says:

    Thank you, Michelle!!

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