KIRKUS REVIEWS

March 6, 2018

THE CLUBHOUSE THIEF

James Janko

Janko delivers a meditative and lyrical baseball novel.

Billy Donachio is the bench coach for the National League pennant-winning…Chicago Cubs, a fictional version of the team with glancing parallels to real life…Donachio is a perennial loser…However, as the Cubs head to a World Series matchup with the Boston Red Sox, he’s heartened by his team’s unique trio of stars: Johnny Stompiano, an irrepressible base-stealer and political activist; Hector Jesús Mijango Cruz, an openly gay slugger, and Arshan “Azzy” Azzam, the team’s ace pitcher…As the series progresses, Donachio becomes increasingly attached to two orphan boys, Sam and Jackie, whom he believes are good-luck charms, and he also begins to steal notes and letters from his players’ lockers. These notes, full of poetry and philosophy, inspire Donachio and the Cubs to new, yet precarious, heights. Janko’s prose is by turns thoughtful and poetic, and over the course of the story, he weaves together a multitude of voices, including Donachio’s inner monologue, rat-a-tat-tat dugout chatter, shock jock radio play-by-play, and the unceasing roar of fans. Each character has his or her own finely wrought cadence, and their actions throughout the plot are believable and well-earned…

A spirited vision of America and its national game.