For some people, baseball becomes an important thread that holds things together in their lives. It fills a void, helps make sense of the world, and provides something to be close to.
For acclaimed author Nicholas Dawidoff, baseball became his refuge during adolescence, filling the gaps between divorced parents, a mentally ill father, and the trials of moving from childhood into adult life.
Davidoff tells his own story in The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness and Baseball.
Using a child’s outlook on the mysteries of the world and the language of a highly educated adult and scholar, Davidoff writes a remarkable book – not exclusively about baseball, but about life, and the role that baseball played in his, and how the Boston Red Sox became the men in his life that he looked up to via the radio broadcasts that filled his bedroom.
As you get into the book you might question why it’s listed as a baseball book — I certainly did. It takes a few chapters to really get into why it gets categorized as such, and in retrospect I probably would have been much more open and receptive to the early chapters if I had viewed it more as a coming-of-age novel.
What I kept having to remind myself as I read it was that this book is not fiction — it is the true (or at least as best as memory can recall) story of Dawidoff’s childhood.
The reader is able to relate to many things that Dawidoff writes about almost instantly – while childhoods can differ in the specifics, the broader challenges of finding yourself while learning about your family and environment is a universal theme. Each of us has gone through it in one way or another — which is what makes the book so appealing.
If you grew up in or around baseball and it became something that got you through childhood, you’ll definitely appreciate The Crowd Sounds Happy. The quality of the writing and the intimacy that Dawidoff affords the listener are both the core and the icing to this wonderful work.
But I will warn you – don’t start reading the book thinking it’s a baseball story. Get into it as a coming-of-age novel and you’ll be delighted with the baseball portions, as opposed to doing it the other way around, like I did.
The Crowd Sounds Happy is a tremendous coming of age memoir that thanks to exquisite writing and engaging candor and detail, will fill a tremendous place in your mind and in your heart.