One of The Wall Street Journal‘s 10 New Books You Should Be Picking Up First In 2020 and one of The Millions‘ Most Anticipated Books of 2020
An explosive, character-driven odyssey through the world of baseball from Emily Nemens, the editor of The Paris Review
Jason 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’s 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.
Praise for The Cactus League
“[The Cactus League speaks] strongly to baseball’s enduring vitality. The home runs and strikeouts may be background noise, but they’re ubiquitous all the same. They’ve defined this community—its heartbreaks, its victories, its changes. They’ve created a world.”
—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
“[Nemens] works within the quirky register of the heart, writing about one of her great passions: baseball. She crafts a humorous and emotional novel about a star outfielder, and the coaches, fans and criminals who inhabit the same off-kilter world.”
—Cody Delistraty, The Wall Street Journal
Emily Nemens is the editor of The Paris Review. She was previously the coeditor of The Southern Review. Her work has been published in Esquire, n+1, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, and elsewhere.