The Cactus League
An explosive, character-driven odyssey through the world of baseballJason Goodyear is the star outfielder for the Los Angeles Lions, stationed with the rest of his team in the punishingly hot Arizona desert for their annual spring training. Handsome, famous, and talented, Goodyear is nonetheless coming apart at the seams. And the coaches, writers, wives, girlfriends, petty criminals, and diehard fans following his every move are eager to find out why--as they hide secrets of their own.Humming with the energy of a ballpark before the first pitch, Emily Nemens' The Cactus League unravels the tightly connected web of people behind a seemingly linear game. Narrated by a sportscaster, Goodyear's story is interspersed with tales of Michael Taylor, a batting coach trying to stay relevant; Tamara Rowland, a resourceful spring-training paramour, looking for one last catch; Herb Allison, a legendary sports agent grappling with his decline; and a plethora of other richly drawn characters, all striving to be seen as the season approaches. It's a journey that, like the Arizona desert, brims with both possibility and destruction.Anchored by an expert knowledge of baseball's inner workings, Emily Nemens's The Cactus League is a propulsive and deeply human debut that captures a strange desert world that is both exciting and unforgiving, where the most crucial games are the ones played off the field.

The Cactus League Details

TitleThe Cactus League
Author
ReleaseFeb 4th, 2020
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-139780374117948
Rating
GenreFiction, Sports, Baseball, Novels, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Literature, American, Adult, Adult Fiction

The Cactus League Review

  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing is static. "...not a man's career, especially not a ballplayer the first weeks of spring. His batting average, his ambition, his hopes: all is in flux." Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona was a 12,000 seat stadium, the new spring training home of the Los Angeles Lions, a Cactus League team. In February/March 2011, within the span of six weeks, a player could make a team, get sent down or get sent home. An unnamed sportswriter, without press credentials, jobless since his Nothing is static. "...not a man's career, especially not a ballplayer the first weeks of spring. His batting average, his ambition, his hopes: all is in flux." Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona was a 12,000 seat stadium, the new spring training home of the Los Angeles Lions, a Cactus League team. In February/March 2011, within the span of six weeks, a player could make a team, get sent down or get sent home. An unnamed sportswriter, without press credentials, jobless since his newspaper's demise, was determined to follow Jason Goodyear, the league's best outfielder. "...as much will happen in parking lots as on the field, as much in backyards as in deep left."Jason Goodyear, left-fielder, "...has an arm like a rocket launcher." He had won Golden Glove Awards and had lucrative product endorsements. He was very competitive. "I just can't turn it off...I always want to win..." Why does "Goody" drive a battered old Jeep? Interesting...his California house was on the market.Michael Taylor was the batting coach for the Los Angeles Lions. Early spring was sixty-nine year old Michael's busiest time of year. The players "...have to get recalibrated to major league pitching... he understands the mechanics of a swing better than any...slo-mo camera or instant replay." Why retire?Tamara Rowland, married and divorced from two baseball players, was in her mid 40's. During a ballplayer's time of uncertainty, she was ready to offer "reassurances". Upon meeting her, "Like flipping a switch [the ballplayer's] vocabulary nose dives into baseball jargon." He might, arguably be "putty" in her hands.William Goslin, a rookie first baseman was in awe of Jason Goodyear, so much so, that he blindly offered support to a sports "hero".In nine chapters, "The Cactus League" by Emily Nemens is a character study of not only Jason Goodyear, but an aging batting coach, a rookie, a divorced groupie, baseball wives, baseball agents and life in Scottsdale, Arizona during spring training. Author Nemens shares her knowledge of The Cactus League having attended spring training with her dad. "We didn't go every year, but we returned to The Cactus League often enough that as I grew up I got a sense of the desert and the weird and wonderful culture that had developed around spring training baseball." An excellent debut novel.Thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Cactus League".
    more
  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    5+ out of 5.I don't like baseball. Never found it terribly interesting to watch. So why, then, do I find it so compelling to read? Perhaps it is the structure, a hypothesis about which Robert Coover and now Emily Nemens might agree. More so than football or basketball or soccer or really any other sport, the structure and simplicity of baseball lends itself well to narrative storytelling. 3 outs, 4 bases, 9 innings: there is a structure here.Nemens uses the 9-inning structure to tell a 5+ out of 5.I don't like baseball. Never found it terribly interesting to watch. So why, then, do I find it so compelling to read? Perhaps it is the structure, a hypothesis about which Robert Coover and now Emily Nemens might agree. More so than football or basketball or soccer or really any other sport, the structure and simplicity of baseball lends itself well to narrative storytelling. 3 outs, 4 bases, 9 innings: there is a structure here.Nemens uses the 9-inning structure to tell a novel-in-stories, about a superstar baseball player crashing out over the course of spring training. The setting is Arizona and the novel crackles with the strange cold-heat of the desert in winter. We hear from Jason Goodyear's agent, one of the co-owners of the team, a woman he spends the night with after his divorce. Characters don't recur, exactly, in the manner of A Visit from the Goon Squad but there are moments of connection and return -- and there are also stories that start and end and we've barely caught a glimpse before they that go spinning off like a foul ball or (perhaps more accurately) a player being traded to another team. I don't know that I loved the overarching narrator device. I don't know that I cared about one or two of the stories in the way I cared about the rest. But I was riveted by the titanic collapse of Jason Goodyear, in a way I never could care about a real baseballer. And that, friends, is true talent on Emily Nemens' part. (Also, the book is just killer on the sentence level. Hot damn.)
    more
  • Dax
    January 1, 1970
    Most people are probably going to focus on Nemens’ use of the multiple POV, a structure she utilizes with much success (except for the chapter centering around the team owner with a bruised ego, as well the chapter focusing on the players’ wives). Nemens appears to have logged some time at spring training herself, and she paints the whole mess with clear lines for us readers.What really stood out to me, however, was the tone Nemens sets throughout the story. This is not a story of redemption, Most people are probably going to focus on Nemens’ use of the multiple POV, a structure she utilizes with much success (except for the chapter centering around the team owner with a bruised ego, as well the chapter focusing on the players’ wives). Nemens appears to have logged some time at spring training herself, and she paints the whole mess with clear lines for us readers.What really stood out to me, however, was the tone Nemens sets throughout the story. This is not a story of redemption, nor is it a story of doom and gloom. With ‘The Cactus League’ Nemens gives us the hint that things might turn out all right, but in a likelihood probably not. A couple of readers have mentioned that baseball really is a perfect metaphor for life, and I tend to agree. Nemens does the game justice. A promising debut. Solid three stars.
    more
  • Erica Bauermeister
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not a big baseball fan, but I picked up this book on a recommendation of a friend, and after reading a few pages I was hooked by the author's use of language and her ability to capture characters within a paragraph. This is a series of interconnected stories, set in Phoenix during spring training. There is a narrative arc that runs through the whole book, but what really matters is the insights into each of the characters who are all remotely or intimately connected (more of the former than I'm not a big baseball fan, but I picked up this book on a recommendation of a friend, and after reading a few pages I was hooked by the author's use of language and her ability to capture characters within a paragraph. This is a series of interconnected stories, set in Phoenix during spring training. There is a narrative arc that runs through the whole book, but what really matters is the insights into each of the characters who are all remotely or intimately connected (more of the former than the latter). A great read.
    more
  • Curtis Edmonds
    January 1, 1970
    "What Nemens does in THE CACTUS LEAGUE --- and brilliantly so --- is to describe the quietly desperate lives of the various characters and invite the reader to find not only empathy with them, but communion as well." Read the rest at Bookreporter.com.
    more
  • Geonn Cannon
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not huge into baseball, but I'm a big fan of this book (and the Lions, if they exist). The author does an excellent job of showing you characters from the inside out (and occasionally from the outside in) so you feel like you know them in the space of a few paragraphs. I was instantly absorbed by the characters and their world. I felt like I'd been to the games they were talking about, like I knew this team. I recommend this book not only to baseball fans, but also to anyone who likes a good I'm not huge into baseball, but I'm a big fan of this book (and the Lions, if they exist). The author does an excellent job of showing you characters from the inside out (and occasionally from the outside in) so you feel like you know them in the space of a few paragraphs. I was instantly absorbed by the characters and their world. I felt like I'd been to the games they were talking about, like I knew this team. I recommend this book not only to baseball fans, but also to anyone who likes a good story.
    more
  • Greg Zimmerman
    January 1, 1970
    First appeared https://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.c...If you're like me, and you believe baseball to be a near-perfect metaphor for life, then you'll love Emily Nemens' new novel, The Cactus League. Baseball, as does life, has its own rhythm and flow: time moves at its own pace. That's why a workday seems interminable, but your week of vacation seems to fly by in a blink. Similarly, when a setup man can't find the strike zone in the bottom of the 8th inning, you feel like time is crawling. But First appeared https://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.c...If you're like me, and you believe baseball to be a near-perfect metaphor for life, then you'll love Emily Nemens' new novel, The Cactus League. Baseball, as does life, has its own rhythm and flow: time moves at its own pace. That's why a workday seems interminable, but your week of vacation seems to fly by in a blink. Similarly, when a setup man can't find the strike zone in the bottom of the 8th inning, you feel like time is crawling. But a a three-run, bottom-of the ninth rally zooms by like lightning. Time flies when you're having fun, they say. And time certainly flew as I read this terrific novel.Nemens's novel is a series of character-driven vignettes, all intersecting and centering on a star left-fielder named Jason Goodyear who is careening towards rock bottom. The structure makes then novel feel like a mashup of Winesburg, Ohio and Philip Roth's goofy baseball book, The Great American Novel. I mean that as a high compliment.Goodyear is personable and focused, but has developed a nasty gambling addiction. His wife has left him and he's living in a shed at the new spring training home of his team, the Los Angeles Lions. Each chapter gives us a new character who has some sort of relationship with Jason — a minor league hitting coach, his shady agent (who is right out of central casting for "shady agent," and was one of my favorite characters), a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, the African American (possibly gay) part owner of the team, the players' wives, and a "cleat chaser" named Tami who enjoys a memorable evening with Jason at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin School (which I learned about for the first time, but then learned is closing almost simultaneously).Portraying such a large swath of humanity gives Nemens the opportunity to illustrate another way baseball is a metaphor for life: The eternal struggle between the haves and the have-nots. It's heartbreaking to see the kid with the bum elbow do whatever he can for one more summer of glory in the sun. It's awful to see a drug-addicted mother, who works at the baseball stadium surrounded by millions of dollars, mistreat her young son. And it's wistful to watch the aging organist for whom technology has all but rendered obsolete cross paths with the up-and-coming bonus baby (even as he's struggling, too).My favorite part of this novel, however, is just the baseball. Nemens REALLY knows baseball. She gets this right. It's almost entirely real, accurate, and authentic — which is almost never the case in baseball novels. As well, while the Lions are of course fictional, Nemens name drops plenty of real major leaguers, past and present. Pete Rose is referenced several times (a must for a novel in which the main character has a gambling addiction, because "Charlie Hustle knows plenty about Rule 21."). The agent has a dog named Kirby Puckett, which is both hilarious, and maybe slightly disrespectful (Kirby Puckett was the agent's first client, and so that's his way of honoring him.) And Jason Goodyear is the first player to have a shoe named after him since Ken Griffey, Jr.I blew through this book in just a couple sittings. A few minor complaints aside, it's a terrific read — the best baseball novel I've read since The Art of Fielding. It was a perfect way to tide myself over until the actual Cactus League kicks off in a few weeks.
    more
  • Cherise Wolas
    January 1, 1970
    Set in the baseball and baseball-tangential microcosm of Scottsdale, Arizona, this novel is about various characters connected directly or indirectly to the Lions baseball team -- from Michael, the baseball player who never made it to the big leagues and is now some kind of team coach and perhaps soon to be out of a job; to Tami, the aging baseball-bunny, a la the Susan Sarandon character in Bull Durham; to Stephen Smith, the married, black, part-owner of the team perhaps hiding a secret about Set in the baseball and baseball-tangential microcosm of Scottsdale, Arizona, this novel is about various characters connected directly or indirectly to the Lions baseball team -- from Michael, the baseball player who never made it to the big leagues and is now some kind of team coach and perhaps soon to be out of a job; to Tami, the aging baseball-bunny, a la the Susan Sarandon character in Bull Durham; to Stephen Smith, the married, black, part-owner of the team perhaps hiding a secret about his sexuality; to Jason Goodyear, the star outfielder with a broken marriage and gambling issues; to Herb, the ailing big sports agent who represents Goodyear, though we never find out what his medical problems are; to Goslin, the rookie; to young Alex S, who, with his mother and sister, are squatting in empty houses, owners away, or foreclosed upon, or only partially built before developer money ran out, and whose mother works concessions at the Lions' new stadium. The author knows baseball, and all the baseball lingo (of which I don't know a ton) and it wasn't dumbed down, which I appreciated, but there was a lot of it. The book seems to want to show both the microcosm of baseball within a particular team, and the changes that have come to Arizona, from its prehistoric time when it was an ocean, perhaps (and this is a guess because it's not clear) intended to demonstrate how baseball affects or is affected by the world at large. Through the book are interstitials - what seems to be sections of an article by a one-time sports writer now out of a job because of what's happened to newspapers in general - which did not work for me - the idea of connecting prehistoric Arizona with the vagaries of baseball felt way too attenuated; I kept trying to figure out if the book was supposedly the reporter's telling of the story; indeed we learn that the reporter is paying sources, including Sarah, the sports agent's assistant, and Alex S, the homeless boy. Billed as a novel, this reads more like loosely connected short stories, and I think would have worked better if each of the chapters, set off as "innings" (which felt trite and childish) had actually been short stories. We are introduced in each inning to a new character, learn their backstory and what's happening in their lives, baseball-related and otherwise, and once the next inning begins, that character about whom we've learned a lot (and are supposedly invested) simply disappears, aside from perhaps a line that tells us they are still around, seen or heard by the character whose turn it is to be featured. What is odd, too, is that the love of baseball that the author clearly possesses, doesn't really shine through the characters. Perhaps that's supposed to be one of the points, that loving baseball renders everyone miserable. What I appreciate is that one doesn't expect a baseball novel to be written by a woman, so brava for that.
    more
  • Litchi
    January 1, 1970
    In excitement for a Spring Training-related trip to Arizona, I read The Cactus League, my first fictional book about baseball. Admittedly, I knew nothing of the author nor did I know anything about the plot, but I needed a baseball book to soothe a lack of baseball in the dreadfully long off-season.The Cactus League is a series of short, slice of life stories connected by one team and its MVP, Jason Goodyear. Baseball is always about humanity, but this book is less about the game and more about In excitement for a Spring Training-related trip to Arizona, I read The Cactus League, my first fictional book about baseball. Admittedly, I knew nothing of the author nor did I know anything about the plot, but I needed a baseball book to soothe a lack of baseball in the dreadfully long off-season.The Cactus League is a series of short, slice of life stories connected by one team and its MVP, Jason Goodyear. Baseball is always about humanity, but this book is less about the game and more about the humans of Scottsdale, Arizona. From the team owner with a secret to the caretaker working for the star player’s sickly agent, the reader gets a peak into the quiet lives of those one or two degrees away from Jason Goodyear.
Unfortunately, I am so biased towards baseball stories. I might be a poor judge of who might enjoy this book. I would say it’s good for everyone because there is very little gameplay, and not much need to understand the inner-workings of the sport. Though, I understand this book may not be for everyone because of the nature of the topic.
While The Cactus League is an absorbing and subtle book, it does start to drag towards the end. Though, it was perfect in satisfying my need for baseball when opening day is still well over a month away.
    more
  • Chris Callahan
    January 1, 1970
    I couldn’t resist trying this new baseball novel at the start of a new season, so, much to my surprise, there was almost no actual baseball in this book. What is here are some interesting stories and character studies about people who are mostly on the periphery of the baseball world (an agent, an organist, baseball wives and “cleat-chasers”, etc.) and the mostly sketchy off-field activities of players who are in various stages of their careers. This was not what I expected, but that isn’t a bad I couldn’t resist trying this new baseball novel at the start of a new season, so, much to my surprise, there was almost no actual baseball in this book. What is here are some interesting stories and character studies about people who are mostly on the periphery of the baseball world (an agent, an organist, baseball wives and “cleat-chasers”, etc.) and the mostly sketchy off-field activities of players who are in various stages of their careers. This was not what I expected, but that isn’t a bad thing, I enjoyed the read.
    more
  • Nick Moran
    January 1, 1970
    Found its stride in the second half, and the final third was an absolute delight.
  • Gayle
    January 1, 1970
    Full review at: http://www.everydayiwritethebookblog....Emily Nemens’ debut novel, The Cactus League, is a book about baseball told through interconnected chapters set in Scottsdale at the beginning of spring training in 2013. Jason Goodyear, a two-time MVP outfielder for the fictional L.A. Lions who is going through a tough stretch, is a recurring character threaded through the chapters (of which there are nine, of course), but the book is told through the point of view of other characters Full review at: http://www.everydayiwritethebookblog....Emily Nemens’ debut novel, The Cactus League, is a book about baseball told through interconnected chapters set in Scottsdale at the beginning of spring training in 2013. Jason Goodyear, a two-time MVP outfielder for the fictional L.A. Lions who is going through a tough stretch, is a recurring character threaded through the chapters (of which there are nine, of course), but the book is told through the point of view of other characters living in varying distances from the sport.Warning for baseball fans: The Cactus League may take a bit of the sheen off the sport. These characters are down on their luck, for the most part, dealing with personal demons. The book opens when a late-career minor league hitting coach arrives in town for spring training to the grim discovery that his Arizona house has been looted and trashed by squatters. A hotshot sports agent is, we learn later, sick with what appears to be cancer. One of the team’s owners makes an impulsive but career-changing decision about a star outfielder after his ego is bruised. These people, some in town only during spring training and some of whom live in Scottsdale year-round, struggle with their self-worth and the prospects for their future. There is a lot of detail and atmosphere in The Cactus League, all of which add up to a richly textured depiction of this strange but revered desert ecosystem.But spring is a period of renewal and hope. Nemens describes beautifully how the pre-season awakens in players the drive to start over with a clean slate, to erase past failures and claim their rightful lineup spot or win the title that’s escaped them through their years in the majors. For the industry hangers-on – the stadium organist, the wives, the woman selling hot dogs in the new stadium – they too express their hopes and resolutions amidst the warming sun and green grass of the newly mowed field. Will they find redemption?The Cactus League is a rarity – a beautifully written, character-driven novel about sports. As for whether you need to be a baseball fan to enjoy it? I can’t answer that. I will say that as a baseball fan, I absolutely loved it.
    more
  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    There is a rhythm to the game that those who are familiar with it can sense. The flip to start the double play, the throw back to the catcher, the tapping of the dirt off the cleats… Nemens captures much of the game in nine emotion -filled chapters.The characters run the gamut of the baseball world. There’s the superstar whose game is at its peak, but whose home life is filled with conflict. The rookie and the aging batting coach. The women who wait at the player’s gate and the rookies who don’t There is a rhythm to the game that those who are familiar with it can sense. The flip to start the double play, the throw back to the catcher, the tapping of the dirt off the cleats… Nemens captures much of the game in nine emotion -filled chapters.The characters run the gamut of the baseball world. There’s the superstar whose game is at its peak, but whose home life is filled with conflict. The rookie and the aging batting coach. The women who wait at the player’s gate and the rookies who don’t know what to do with their newly acquired disposable income. Each character is drawn with skill. I didn’t mind meeting new characters as the story progressed because it made me excited to see how they would be woven into the plot.Speaking of… it’s definitely hard to start to describe the plot. I think it’s best to stick to generalities and just say that this story is one of spring. Beginnings: new season, new opportunities… and endings: possible retirements, break ups, and a change of status on the depth chart.Just a bit of a forewarning… This isn’t a book that’s action lies between the lines. The drama is off the field, in the clubhouse or the desert condo. And the only criticism I have is that the author uses a storytelling device by where the story is being told by a reporter. At times it’s a bit distracting from the central story.Recommended for those looking to read a very good novel about the lives of people around big league sports.4 out of 5 starsThank you to NetGalley, Macmillan Press, and the author for an advanced copy for review.For my full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2019/12/22/th...For all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog
    more
  • Kales
    January 1, 1970
    I found this book oddly fascinating. I have always been a fan of the type of stories that play with structure. This one wove stories together around one declining athlete. It was a little like Tartuffe, go with me on this. Everyone talked about Jason Goodyear in this book but we never really got to meet him until the end. Same with Tartuffe. Everyone talk about Tartuffe but we don't meet him until Act III. I enjoy that kind of storytelling.Normally, I am not a fan of short stories or essays. I I found this book oddly fascinating. I have always been a fan of the type of stories that play with structure. This one wove stories together around one declining athlete. It was a little like Tartuffe, go with me on this. Everyone talked about Jason Goodyear in this book but we never really got to meet him until the end. Same with Tartuffe. Everyone talk about Tartuffe but we don't meet him until Act III. I enjoy that kind of storytelling.Normally, I am not a fan of short stories or essays. I struggle with liking all of them. But when they intertwine like this, it's cool to see how the author brings it all together. She made me want to follow the lives of these characters, giving me just enough without overwhelming me with information. Weirdly, it was a slice of life book and usually, I'm not a fan of those either. All of this was kind of an ordinary story, if not somewhat predictable. Still, I liked it. I liked the baseball (which I'm already a fan of), I liked the interpersonal relationships and I liked watching the decline of a supposed superstar. It's a singular familiar story told from different angles which was well written. Each of the characters had great voices and memorable stories. I am looking forward to what more this author has to offer and I hope people enjoy this book when it comes out in February 2020.Conclusion: Keep the ARC
    more
  • Allison
    January 1, 1970
    As a fan of both baseball and literary fiction I thought I’d love this book. Unfortunately, it was not sufficiently about baseball nor “literary” enough and I did not love it. That’s harsh: I just had too high expectations. The structure is: vignettes about various characters/topics on and circling around a baseball team, all weaving together, and colliding in a final event. Kind of like Tommy Orange’s “There There.” But there were too many dead weight subjects - you could sniff a hint of As a fan of both baseball and literary fiction I thought I’d love this book. Unfortunately, it was not sufficiently about baseball nor “literary” enough and I did not love it. That’s harsh: I just had too high expectations. The structure is: vignettes about various characters/topics on and circling around a baseball team, all weaving together, and colliding in a final event. Kind of like Tommy Orange’s “There There.” But there were too many dead weight subjects - you could sniff a hint of complexity, but just hinted at, and most characters (especially the women, to my disappointment) came off as one note. Too much of each chapter was taken up by laying out the facts of the character’s backstory, which didn’t actually add to the depth of the character. The back stories did cover a lot of ground, though: Arizona, the housing crash, opioid addition, Tommy John surgery, Frank Lloyd Wright, the stress of being an ace, closeted homosexuality, race, trophy wives/cleat chasers, minor league organists, and so on. Covered a lot of ground almost to a fault. I did like viewing a character - say, the batting coach - from different vantages. But this book would have been more successful if each chapter were able to stand on its own, as a collection of strong short stories. Which is a lot to ask, I know. Or if the cast and topics had been pared down. The writing was blah, and so is this review.
    more
  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    Great cover plus perfect timing with Spring Training in AZ, but alas, this novel is more like a series of loosely-related stories held together by baseball lore and luckless losers whose lives are mostly on the skids and not likely to swing back to safety. For great baseball reads, you cannot beat “The Art of Fielding” and “Summerland.”
    more
  • Josh Krysak
    January 1, 1970
    I love books about baseball. I love books told from varying viewpoints. I love well-drawn characters. I really liked this book. Couldn’t get to love because the overall interweaving of the characters was a little flat, but the structure and timing and crispness to the writing made it a quick read and one that is perfect for this time in February as pitchers and catchers report.
    more
  • Kerry
    January 1, 1970
    Loved this book!
  • Julie Wawers
    January 1, 1970
    My general thoughts about this book are that I’m relieved to be done with this, and I’m sad that it didn’t live up to the hype for me. It’s told from a bunch of point of views all focusing around the Los Angeles Lions, a professional baseball team, and their time spent in Arizona for Spring Training. The reader hears from everyone from the star baseball player to the owner to the baseball groupies. This was definitely well written and an interesting concept, but I just didn’t connect with it. I My general thoughts about this book are that I’m relieved to be done with this, and I’m sad that it didn’t live up to the hype for me. It’s told from a bunch of point of views all focusing around the Los Angeles Lions, a professional baseball team, and their time spent in Arizona for Spring Training. The reader hears from everyone from the star baseball player to the owner to the baseball groupies. This was definitely well written and an interesting concept, but I just didn’t connect with it. I think all of the different perspectives threw me off, and it felt slow at times. It’s probably one I should’ve just abandoned.
    more
  • Susie | Novel Visits
    January 1, 1970
    Note: I received a copy of this book from the Farrar, Straus and Giroux (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest review.I’m not sure there’s anything I like much more than when a book takes me completely by surprise and that’s exactly what happened with The Cactus League. Books that are actually connected short stories typically have me running the other way. I hadn’t realized that was the case with Nemens’ new book until I finished the first chapter and began the second, but oh, I loved that Note: I received a copy of this book from the Farrar, Straus and Giroux (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest review.I’m not sure there’s anything I like much more than when a book takes me completely by surprise and that’s exactly what happened with The Cactus League. Books that are actually connected short stories typically have me running the other way. I hadn’t realized that was the case with Nemens’ new book until I finished the first chapter and began the second, but oh, I loved that first chapter. From start to finish each of the nine chapters in The Cactus League presented a new character who beautifully drove the story.Throughout the book Nemens delivers characters connected in someway to The Los Angeles Lions and their star player Jason Goodyear. It’s the spring of 2011 and his world is starting to fall apart. Each story gives a little more information about what really might be going on with Jason. At the same time the reader gets the more personal stories of others connected to the team: an aging out batting coach, teammates, an owner, Jason’s agent and ex-wife, a baseball groupie, and many more. The individual stories were beautifully written with real depth in a small package.A down and out reporter, who’s been around baseball a long time and knows where to dig, tells the stories. Before each new chapter he links a little bit of Arizona’s geological history with baseball. At first this threw me a bit, but I came to look forward to each new geology lesson and how it would lead me to a new person’s story. Getting to know each character and their connections to baseball and to Jason turned out to be a very special reading experience. Whether you’re a fan of baseball or not, The Cactus League is a book well worth reading! “But this isn’t a story about my career trajectory or how much I miss my wife. This isn’t about the downfall of newspapers or why my son won’t go ahead and make me a granddad already. It’s about Jason, and all the improbable things that got him to us – to this very instant, to right now.”Original Source: https://novelvisits.com/the-cactus-le...
    more
  • Joseph Haeger
    January 1, 1970
    When I initially picked The Cactus League up I was hoping for a lot of baseball, but understood it’s a novel that needs to carry emotional resonance (and you know, is universal enough that everyone can get something out of it). The problem is I wasn’t expecting Nemens to try to jam so much story into it. At a certain point it seemed like Nemens lost sight of what her intention was. The Cactus League is a collection of short stories--some fantastic and some that didn’t quite do it for me--and in When I initially picked The Cactus League up I was hoping for a lot of baseball, but understood it’s a novel that needs to carry emotional resonance (and you know, is universal enough that everyone can get something out of it). The problem is I wasn’t expecting Nemens to try to jam so much story into it. At a certain point it seemed like Nemens lost sight of what her intention was. The Cactus League is a collection of short stories--some fantastic and some that didn’t quite do it for me--and in the end, I just wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be seeing or feeling.
    more
  • Melissa Rochelle
    January 1, 1970
    The Cactus League by Emily Nemens is set during Spring Training 2011 in Scottsdale, the housing market hasn’t rebounded since the Recession, thousands of foreclosures have left properties empty and increased the risks of squatters throughout the Valley. Our narrator, a sportscaster, is following Jason Goodyear, the star outfielder for the Los Angeles Lions. The nameless narrator introduces us to each chapter, which focuses on a new character. This large cast of seemingly unrelated characters – The Cactus League by Emily Nemens is set during Spring Training 2011 in Scottsdale, the housing market hasn’t rebounded since the Recession, thousands of foreclosures have left properties empty and increased the risks of squatters throughout the Valley. Our narrator, a sportscaster, is following Jason Goodyear, the star outfielder for the Los Angeles Lions. The nameless narrator introduces us to each chapter, which focuses on a new character. This large cast of seemingly unrelated characters – an aging batting coach, a baseball groupie, a legendary sports agent, a hopeful minor league player, a business developer, to name a few– are all peripherally connected to Jason Goodyear. This web of characters is wonderfully contrasted against the relatively linear game of baseball. We get a glimpse into so many different lives and Nemens manages to make each character distinctive and genuine. The structure reminds me of a few of my favorite novels including A Visit from the Goon Squad and You Know When the Men are Gone, both of which tell stories through interwoven stories.
    more
  • Jeffrey
    January 1, 1970
    Emily Nemen's debut novel "The Cactus League" is not your typical baseball novel. There is no plucky underdog -- bat on his shoulders and heavier than the world -- in a bases-loaded, bottom of the ninth in Game Seven. It is not about the runs scored, the extra base hits, or even the wins and losses. It is not about a game, a series of games, but rather about the game: how baseball is sewn into the very essence of our beings, dictates our perspectives, and shapes our lives and relationships."The Emily Nemen's debut novel "The Cactus League" is not your typical baseball novel. There is no plucky underdog -- bat on his shoulders and heavier than the world -- in a bases-loaded, bottom of the ninth in Game Seven. It is not about the runs scored, the extra base hits, or even the wins and losses. It is not about a game, a series of games, but rather about the game: how baseball is sewn into the very essence of our beings, dictates our perspectives, and shapes our lives and relationships."The Cactus League" centers on the Los Angeles Lions' superstar Jason Goodyear (two-time American League MVP winner, Hollywood good-looks, Midwestern manners) and his rapid spiral toward rock bottom. How better than to illustrate the larger-than-life megastar through the lives of the incidental characters he has touched? "The Cactus League" is divided into a series of vignettes on characters of various distances within Goodyear's orbit, from an aging paramour to a struggling "bonus baby" to a recovering pitcher facing the twilight of his career.No matter the number on the jersey, Nemens illustrates each character with a steady level-handedness and pathos. Each are fully-formed and searching for something lost. For them, their life problems are baseball problems, whether it is reclaiming the prime of youth, making the next cut, or holding onto the only game they have ever understood in life. Their struggles are universal, as captivating as any playoff game. "The Cactus League" is partitioned into nine sections, each (by geometrical design) representing an inning or a position. Among my favorites are "Prospects," which focuses on the middle-aged cleat-chaser Tamara Rowland, and her unexpected escapade with the downtrodden Goodyear; "The Outfield," which explores the underreported lives of the players' better halves, from the catty gossip to the galas; and the ironically named "Homers," which depicts an addict mother whose habit threatens to tear her drifter family apart. Nemens tinkers with the collection like a manager with lineup. The early stories hook fast and early with hard thumpers in the middle and a revelatory ending that makes you want to turn the order over again.I only have a few gripes with the "The Cactus League". First, there are some parts of overwriting and some minor inconsistencies with the operations of the sport (to my understanding). For most clubs, Spring Training serves as a tune-up session for hitters and pitchers to find a feel for their repertoire. No team particularly cares about losing streaks or allows pitchers to exhaust their arms in a complete game shutout before the regular season. These inaccuracies aside, I enjoyed the unique Arizona backdrop of the novel outside the usual dramatics of the regular or post- season setting, shifting emphasis onto the players.In all, Nemens has a assembled an impressive cast of characters that is worthy of a postseason berth not only in baseball literature but general fiction. "The Cactus League" is a high recommendation for baseball and non-baseball fans alike.
    more
  • Danny Daley
    January 1, 1970
    Baseball and literature are two of my favorite things, so when they come together my interest is piqued. Nemens is a very good writer; good character creation and structure. She writes with a careful pace. The prose is clear but still stylized enough to bring a sense of flair.Although the nine inning structure was inspired, the decision to spread those nine innings across nine primary characters was, in my opinion, a poor one. Too many primary characters, too little space to develop them Baseball and literature are two of my favorite things, so when they come together my interest is piqued. Nemens is a very good writer; good character creation and structure. She writes with a careful pace. The prose is clear but still stylized enough to bring a sense of flair.Although the nine inning structure was inspired, the decision to spread those nine innings across nine primary characters was, in my opinion, a poor one. Too many primary characters, too little space to develop them properly. The first three or four chapters were excellent; by that point I was ready to love the book - but I didn't get all I wanted from those first few characters and I assumed at some point Nemens would revisit them in earnest, and that we'd continue to follow their stories. When we got chapter six, and we still hadn't gone back to those first few characters, I realized their time was basically done and none of the characters would be further developed or receive proper narrative treatment, and this left me impatient at the end of each of the final few stories. This may have contributed to my feeling about those final few chapters, but I felt that the characters in each chapter got progressively less interesting as the story went on. By the time I finished the book, I felt that I'd been presented with the starts of nine separate short stories, all at least somewhat interesting as starting points, but none of them developed enough to be satisfying.The book presents nine stories, all too connected to be considered short stories, but none connected enough to feel like a novel. The book, for me, hovers someplace in between novel and short story collection, and I think it's the worse for it. By then end, the characters all feel suspended, with no real resolutions to speak of, no idea where they'll go next, and the ambiguity didn't serve the story well. But, I enjoyed Nemens writing enough that I stuck with it, and I'd certainly pick up her next book.
    more
  • Cflack
    January 1, 1970
    Before I discuss how much I enjoyed reading this novel, I must admit that I was predisposed to liking it: Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies and I got engaged at Spring Training in Arizona in 2003.Emily Nemens has written an engaging novel which revolves around people whose lives are impacted by the 6-8 weeks of spring training each year in Arizona - the rookies, the veterans, the AAA batting coach, the owner, an agent, the players wives and girl friends, the aging groupies and people that Before I discuss how much I enjoyed reading this novel, I must admit that I was predisposed to liking it: Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies and I got engaged at Spring Training in Arizona in 2003.Emily Nemens has written an engaging novel which revolves around people whose lives are impacted by the 6-8 weeks of spring training each year in Arizona - the rookies, the veterans, the AAA batting coach, the owner, an agent, the players wives and girl friends, the aging groupies and people that work at the stadium. Each "inning" of the novel starts with a history lesson about the land and the indigenous people who lived on the land on which the stadium was built thousands of years ago, narrated by a sports writer. The rest of the inning is from the point of view of one or more characters who are in Scottsdale for LA Lions spring training, but ultimately most of the stories tie back to Jason Goodyear - the team star who is having a difficult year. The structure of the novel, inning by inning, builds the bigger picture of Jason Goodyear as he interacts with the people around him, so that ultimately we learn who he is, not from his own POV but from those who play with him, coach him, worship him or want to sleep with him. Each character is beautifully drawn and intricately interwoven not only with Jason, but also with other people we meet. There is both humor and poignancy to all of these characters - rookies wondering if they're ever going to make it to the majors, veterans concerned that they have all ready peaked, coaches who are sticking around a bit too long trying to make enough money so they can retire,women who realize their youthful beauty is fading, and wealthy older men whose health is deteriorating. Their flaws and their insecurities are what make us feel for them. Although the ending does not tie all of the loose ends together (which I prefer), there is a circularity and closure that is well earned.Disclosure: I won this book in the Goodreads Giveaway.
    more
  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    The Cactus League is centered on the fictional MLB team, the Los Angeles Lions, and specifically left field, Jason Goodyear, during their spring training in Phoenix/Scottsdale. Like many of the other reviewers, I am a fan of baseball and I have spent a week in Phoenix during spring training and saw a couple games, including one in Scottsdale. So, the setting definitely drew me in, and overall, I enjoyed the story, but...I am not always a fan of novels with multiple POV's because inevitably there The Cactus League is centered on the fictional MLB team, the Los Angeles Lions, and specifically left field, Jason Goodyear, during their spring training in Phoenix/Scottsdale. Like many of the other reviewers, I am a fan of baseball and I have spent a week in Phoenix during spring training and saw a couple games, including one in Scottsdale. So, the setting definitely drew me in, and overall, I enjoyed the story, but...I am not always a fan of novels with multiple POV's because inevitably there are weaker or less interesting POV's than others, which makes you long for more story from the POV's that you do like (or worse, you cannot tell the difference between POV's), and Cactus League changes POV every chapter (of which there are nine, of course). Additionally, there is an unnamed narrator that moves the story along between chapters, but the history lessons provided in the narration interludes were unnecessary and slowed the story down. The female characters were a bit flat and disappointing, too (one of the main reasons this is 3-stars and not higher).As for the ending, (view spoiler)[there really isn't one. It's ambiguous. And I am OK with that. It is very likely that Jason will continue his downward spiral, but we don't know for sure. I think that kind of reflects the baseball season, too. Spring training is sometimes a good indicator for how the regular season will go...but the regular season is 162 games, which is a lot of time for teams' fortunes to change. Hmm. (hide spoiler)]
    more
  • Karen Voitik
    January 1, 1970
    >Book Review – The Cactus League>I am an independent reviewer. This book is a standalone work of fiction that doesn’t really have an ending. The book shows a realistic view of what takes place during baseball’s spring training, told from multiple points of view. Each type of character has a different reason for being where they are. There are the gold diggers who use the naiveté of some of the players to either marry or receive expensive gifts from them. The coaches are trying to create a >Book Review – The Cactus League>I am an independent reviewer. This book is a standalone work of fiction that doesn’t really have an ending. The book shows a realistic view of what takes place during baseball’s spring training, told from multiple points of view. Each type of character has a different reason for being where they are. There are the gold diggers who use the naiveté of some of the players to either marry or receive expensive gifts from them. The coaches are trying to create a winning team, but have to figure out a way to make drastic cuts. The agents have to keep their player clients on the straight and narrow. The players are all at different times in their careers. Their wives and girlfriends have their own unique reality to endure.>The book goes off in all sorts of tangents, depending upon whose point of view is being used. Even with all of the characters, Jason Goodyear is the main character of the book. Goodyear is a baseball phenom with no apparent bad characteristics. He looks too good to be true and as the story continues that phrase holds true. One of the more interesting facts is the lack of big money for 90% of the players and coaches. Very few players get the huge contracts and signing bonuses. >This book is appropriate for an adult audience. I am giving this book 4 stars. The story is compelling, but just stops, not giving the reader a true ending.
    more
  • Allison
    January 1, 1970
    I picked a good read for this time of year, and the timing of its publication is no wonder. The Cactus League is a compelling look into the lives of ball players, coaches, baseball wives, and more. Each chapter is told from a different vantage point of individuals connected through and around the fictional LA Lions, an MLB team in Arizona’s spring Cactus League.From the Arizona setting that becomes almost another character, to the level of detail Nemens provides—talk about an author who did her I picked a good read for this time of year, and the timing of its publication is no wonder. The Cactus League is a compelling look into the lives of ball players, coaches, baseball wives, and more. Each chapter is told from a different vantage point of individuals connected through and around the fictional LA Lions, an MLB team in Arizona’s spring Cactus League.From the Arizona setting that becomes almost another character, to the level of detail Nemens provides—talk about an author who did her research—there is a lot to appreciate here. As a lover of character-driven novels and a baseball fan, I am someone who would probably enjoy a book like this most. Even so, I don’t think you have to be a baseball fan to read and like it, not at all. It’s for anyone who likes a book with a cast of characters and a behind-the-scenes, distinct setting.It’s got me thinking about the behind the scenes relationships and machinations of the Nationals, a team I have followed for years, as I watch them working through spring training coming off their improbable World Series win. This book is a reminder that there’s so much more going on behind the scenes of that glossy, encapsulated, high-def coverage. Here’s hoping Emily Nemens follows this up with The Grapefruit League. Ha, but please? I’d be here for it.
    more
  • Geary
    January 1, 1970
    The Cactus League, by Emily Nemens, is a novel set in Scottsdale, Arizona during the pre-season training camp of the (fictitious) Los Angeles Lions baseball team. Told through multiple POV’s, the chapters are in short story format, linked together with some of the characters recurring in multiple stories through the 7-week time period. The character most followed is the MVP left fielder of the Lions, who has a rather bad habit. Children, rookies, stadium workers, players’ wives, one of the The Cactus League, by Emily Nemens, is a novel set in Scottsdale, Arizona during the pre-season training camp of the (fictitious) Los Angeles Lions baseball team. Told through multiple POV’s, the chapters are in short story format, linked together with some of the characters recurring in multiple stories through the 7-week time period. The character most followed is the MVP left fielder of the Lions, who has a rather bad habit. Children, rookies, stadium workers, players’ wives, one of the teams’ owners, a sports agent, and other fringe voices populate the novel. All have interesting stories to tell. There is very little character development (with one exception), but all of their voices are engaging. There isn’t much of a plot, just the characters acting their parts over the course of the per-season. This format moves the plot swiftly, keeping the reader interested. There isn’t a resolution (though there is one unresolved plot thread that disturbed me) to the various plot arc’s. The author meant this to be a series of vignettes over a short time period. For the most part these stories were quite realistic, and certainly enjoyable. Mature YA readers and those who appreciate the culture that exists behind professional sports teams will enjoy this novel. I liked this book, and look forward to reading more from the author.
    more
  • David V
    January 1, 1970
    First some expectation-setting: this is a set of 9 essentially individual stories about people associated with spring training in Arizona (hitting coach, agent, rookie, star player, wives, etc.) with slight overlap in the characters. It is not a all-inclusive, plot-driven novel which drives towards a neatly tied up ending.Years ago, I read a non-fiction book called Baseball Lives which did the same thing, but with the actual folks who float on the periphery of the baseball world. As a baseball First some expectation-setting: this is a set of 9 essentially individual stories about people associated with spring training in Arizona (hitting coach, agent, rookie, star player, wives, etc.) with slight overlap in the characters. It is not a all-inclusive, plot-driven novel which drives towards a neatly tied up ending.Years ago, I read a non-fiction book called Baseball Lives which did the same thing, but with the actual folks who float on the periphery of the baseball world. As a baseball fan, I found some of the characterizations in this book "one note" and over-the-top. While the author does a good job of being empathetic to the situations each person is in (I especially liked the first few chapters), by the end it felt like each person was defined by a single trait/character flaw. Additionally, the history lessons by the unnamed sportswriter at the start of each chapter did not work as a literary device, only slowing the book down.This was an OK read. There are some strong sections, especially the first one (hitting coach) and Herb (agent), but it's nowhere near the quality of something like The Art of Fielding for a great baseball/literature combination.
    more
Write a review