Lynn: Sometimes a book is just what you need at a particular time. That was the case for me with Ellen Emerson White’s A Season of Daring Greatly (2017). I’m a fan of baseball and baseball books. I love an underdog story and stories with an interesting ensemble cast. And in these challenging times, I needed a book in which a woman comes out ahead in a male-dominated field. I got all these—plus sheer enjoyment—in a book that couldn’t have come at a better time.
Eighteen-year-old Jill Cafferty is 6’2″ tall, strong, disciplined, has a 90 mph fast ball, and a wicked curve. Awarded a baseball scholarship to Stanford, Jill also enters the baseball draft, mostly to see what might happen. When the Pittsburgh Pirates pick her in the third round, she decides to postpone college and give professional baseball a try, knowing full well the weight of her decision to become the first woman to play men’s professional baseball. Jill is sent to a minor league farm club in New York State, and the bulk of the book follows Jill’s experiences in the first part of that summer season.
White does an excellent job of exploring the awful weight of media attention on a young person, as well as the incredible responsibility of being a landmark historic “first.” Knowing that the fate of the future of women players rests on her shoulders is a tremendous burden, even for level-headed Jill, and White provides much to think about—as well as heart, humor, a great cast of engaging characters, and a compelling inside look at a minor league experience.
Jill has “military family manners” and is unfailingly polite, but White also cleverly provides Jill’s internal thoughts, which enhances the reader’s understanding of her experiences. The baseball scenes felt authentic and the game play-by-play scenes were some of my favorite parts of the book.
This story was completely engaging for me, and I had real trouble putting it down. I rooted for Jill from page one, through some appalling discrimination, her rookie learning curve struggles, and the weighty burden of always having to be “exemplary.” Her evolving friendships with her teammates, development as a pitcher, and wonderfully depicted family and hometown relationships round out Jill as a character I truly cared about. The ending is satisfying but open-ended. This baseball fan is earnestly hoping for another installment!