I often joke that my fourth favorite film genre is Sports Cinema. Call it a guilty pleasure if you like, but I love those rags-to-gold medal movies about teams beating the odds and gaining the glory. And this love is also reflected in my literary leanings. Especially when you throw in a dash of girl power and a sprinkling of American history.
Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace seemed to fit this bill perfectly. My mom, knowing that I harbor a strange love for sports-tales, gifted me this novel a few years back and I’ve been saving it for a rainy day. Wallace tells the story of “Diamond” Ruby Thomas, a fictional character based on the real-life Jackie Mitchell who threw a baseball hard enough to strike out two of the greatest sluggers to ever play the game–Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Here’s a synopsis–
Seventeen-year-old Ruby Thomas, newly responsible for her two young nieces after a devastating tragedy, is determined to keep her family safe in the vast, swirling world of 1920s New York City. She’s got street smarts, boundless determination, and one unusual skill: the ability to throw a ball as hard as the greatest pitchers in a baseball-mad city.
From Coney Island sideshows to the brand-new Yankee Stadium, “Diamond Ruby” chronicles the extraordinary life and times of a girl who rises from utter poverty to the kind of renown only the Roaring Twenties can bestow. But her fame comes with a price, and Ruby must escape a deadly web of conspiracy and threats from Prohibition rumrunners, the Ku Klux Klan, and the gangster underworld.
If you too enjoy a good ol’ fashioned coming-of-age Sports film then I highly recommend you give this book a read. Two movies in particular that it called to mind were A League of Their Own and Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. I ADORE those two movies and Diamond Ruby was a perfect mixture of both. There was, of course, the “girls can’t play baseball!….oh wait, YES THEY CAN!” element from A League of Their Own but also some Coney Island side-show elements from Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. (Ruby even befriends a woman who went blind as a result of a diving accident! Um, HELLO!?)
Not to mention, Laura Lippman says, “Comparisons to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn are not made lightly. Wonderful…memorable…perfect.” And the historical accuracy, especially as it pertains to New York City and it’s infamous love of baseball, can’t be beat. While Diamond Ruby is Joseph Wallace’s first novel he’s written four previous books on baseball history. He certainly knows his stuff!
The book FAR EXCEEDED my expectations and I would recommend it to lovers of baseball and historical fiction alike!
Have you read Diamond Ruby? What did you think?