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Bibliocrack Review | You Should Be So Lucky by Cat Sebastian

If I'm being perfectly honest with myself, I've done a shamefully poor job of addressing my love for Cat Sebastian's books around these parts. I've certainly noted each time her beautiful stories have appeared on my end-of-the-year best of lists, see: The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayesbasically every book in The Cabots series, and of course We Could Be So GoodAnd the pull is, quite simply, this: nobody is as kind and gentle with their characters and with their hearts than Cat Sebastian. Nobody. I haven't always been one for the gentler stories, but I cannot overstate the absolute gift it is sinking into one of Sebastian's exquisitely crafted historicals knowing that I get to spend the next however many pages watching two idiots pine and deny that feelings exist and just take care of each other as they fall in love. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. Not this one or any other. 
Only two things in the world people count by months. How old a baby is, and how long since something awful happened.
Mark Bailey hasn't known what to do for more than a year. Longer than that, probably. But it's been nearly a year and a half since he lost his partner and his will to go on. Which is why, as an arts writer for the Chronicle, he is severely less-than-pleased to be unceremoniously placed on the sports beat covering the story of the New York Robins' hapless new shortstop. Eddie O'Leary was supposed to be the new golden boy of baseball. Traded to a team already circling the drain, in a city that somehow cares even less for him than he does for it, he immediately loses his swing. And things go rapidly downhill from there. Until Mark Bailey walks into the locker room, unwillingly sniffing after a story about the hick from Kansas City. And somehow, these two solitary souls find that they're needed after all. Independent of their stalled careers and the mess of emotional damage they're trailing behind them. Because Eddie can see the few remaining pockets of life slowly draining from Mark's eyes, and Mark realizes his flagging heart may actually have enough life left in it to protect the spark he sees in the struggling young phenom. But whether or not trust of the longterm variety is in the cards, that may take more seasons than Eddie has left to solve.
He thinks that the game may have earned those metaphors. It's slow and often seems pointless. It's beautiful, when it isn't a mess. There's a vast ocean of mercy for mistakes: getting hits half the time is nothing short of a miracle, and even the best fielders are expected to have errors. The inevitability of failure is built into the game.
I confess, I did not see baseball coming and I am so here for it. I'm a longtime fan of the sport, and it was a damn delight reading Cat Sebastian's beautiful take on baseball in 1960s New York, especially as seen through the exacting and incisive eye of one Mark Bailey. Whose faultless fashion aesthetic I may never recover from. Rolled sleeves agenda indeed, sir. After reading (and absolutely loving) We Could Be So Good, my expectations going into Sebastian's next mid-century historical set in the same "world" were sky high. Every one is exceeded. The expert craftsmanship that goes into this novel works a kind of slow-creeping magic on its readers, effortlessly setting us down in an incredibly specific period in time—one not often renowned for its magic—and wrapping us up in the inexorably charming rhythm of taxis called and taken, of baseball fans whose teams have left them, of players who are forced to leave their teams, of the precise cut of a hand-tailored suit, the push and pull of the characters' vernacular, and the uniquely human longing to know we're not alone. An ache took up residence in my chest the entire time I read this book. The kind of ache I felt the compulsive need to press down on so as to keep myself together long enough, to acknowledge through the feeling and the pressure that what I was reading was as beautifully rendered as it seemed. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me even a little bit that I identified with Mark to a somewhat lethal degree.
Maybe Mark is wrong. Maybe this swing will slip away from Eddie, or maybe it will settle into something just above marginal, something good enough but never great. He knows better than to count on good things lasting. But when he watches Eddie—when he sees that stern set of his jaw, and when Eddie flashes a grin toward the bleachers—Mark thinks he's seeing something that's for keeps.
For all the baseball talk and culture and wonderful history, this is an intensely interior sort of story. It is two people quietly grappling with what it means to be queer in a society and a time that won't allow it, coming to terms with how comfortable they are taking up space in that world and on whose terms, and how to move forward together without giving up the things and the people, the sport and the words that they love. I could read a thousand more quiet, aching pages full of bowls of pasta in unassuming Italian restaurants, aging sportswriters and team managers quietly fighting injustice and time, two ridiculously likable characters bonding over horror novels, milkshakes, and not talking about their feelings. I'll close with my favorite exchange of all, one that coincidentally (or perhaps not, after all) perfectly encapsulates all I ever want from the story of a relationship:
I love you," Eddie says.
"You're a nightmare," Mark returns, in precisely the same tone of voice.

You Should Be So Lucky is out today!

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New York Times review | The Geeky Waffle review | superstardrifter review | cannonballread review

Comments

  1. Carolyn9:07 AM

    Well now I just have to pick this one up (and We Could Be So Good too!).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful! I hope you love them, Carolyn.

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