Friday, July 18, 2014

Catching Lightning Without The Botte (A Book Review)

I hadn't read anything about Timothy Bouvine's Catching Lightning Without The Bottle when I first started reading it. A friend endorsed it as a good book so I set it on my "to read" pile this spring. When I finally got 'round to picking it up, it wasn't just the story that was compelling. The writing itself seemed to expertly set the hook so that the reader would be unable to swim away.

The central character in this story is Blake Benson, a superstar ballplayer whose fame has tested his character and found him to be lacking. Benson is a catcher for the Chicago Cubs, and though he's played a role in bringing their pitching staff to stellar heights, he himself has become so handicapped due to his behavior that he is a detriment to the team.

The first chapter describes another one of his benders, forgetting himself (losing himself) in another boozy night of women and excess after a remarkable last inning comeback earlier that day. This is not a random incident for Benson. This has become so routine it's begun to define him. Despite his fame and accomplishments, even his best friend Sandy has come to distrust him, but wants to help him anyways.

Blake makes promises but doesn't keep them and even when told this is the last time, he sneaks off and finds a way to get another drink. When caught he is told he can't fly on to the next game with the team and he's literally left behind.

It should be noted that the Cubs have a ten-game lead and are in first place in the second half of the season. They seem quite capable of doing the impossible for a Cubs franchise that has so many times come up short. Which makes the next plot twist so unexpected. A plane crash takes out the entire team and coaches, except their one superstar, Blake Benson.

Bouvine evidently researched what would happen should an accident like this occur today in the jet age. Everything is totally believable in how this might play out. The author achieves that wonderful quality all readers of good fiction seek: a vividly detailed telling of a story that is not interrupted by disbelief. That is, when the plane crash occurs, the events that follow are never interrupted by the internal voice that says, "Oh that would never happen."

In fact, all the details of the story seem plausible, even when implausible.

The book is a story about a man fighting to regain a measure of his dignity, overcome his self-destructive behaviors and mend his shredded life. Bouvine not only loves baseball, but also understands alcoholism and the mind games alcoholics play.

The book's title comes from a term coined by Leo Durocher, "catching lightning in a bottle." It means performing a difficult feat. Catching lightning without a bottle, then, is achieving the impossible. Which is more impossible, winning the pennant or overcoming his addiction which under extreme duress and in the public eye? Well, I would suggest that writing such a good book for a first novel might also come pretty close to catching lightning.

All six reviewers of the book have given it a 5-star rating thus far. This review sums up what I was thinking:

Whether you are a baseball fan or not, this is a great read that will appeal to everyone of all walks of life. We all have our faults and demons that torment us, but this book is an inspiration to face those negatives in our everyday life. Taking nothing for granted, personal redemption and improving relationships with loved ones and friends are front and center in this great story. You will not be disappointed in this book.

You can read the other reviews and purchase the book here.  Published by Savage Press, 2014.

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For what it's worth, if you're a fan of minor league baseball, the Reader is celebrating another birthday and publisher Bob Boone is giving away Free Tickets to Wade Stadium for next Friday, the 25th. (Make sure I have my facts correct; pick up a copy of the Reader and check it out.)

Take me out to the ballgame...

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