|Book Reveiw 7-9
Monday, May 26, 2008
By Denise Turney
Playing for Pizza is John Grisham’s latest novel. Readers who have fallen in love with Grisham’s taut, pop-pop-pop writing style, will enjoy Playing for Pizza. This story comes with a huge plus – it’s setting.. It’s as if you’re on a virtual vacation in Parma, Italy while you turn the pages of this book. If I had to pick one word to describe this story, I’d use the word “energetic”. Although the book resolves around sports, namely football, you don’t have to be a sports fan to engage with the characters and appreciate the story.
Playing for Pizza (and some of the guys in the story actually do play football for pizza) starts at the NFL’s AFC Championship game. The book’s lead character, an athletically built guy named Rick Dockery, has just been called in to quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. The team’s starting quarterback has taken one hit too many and has been sidelined. Rick was a very good quarterback in high school. He was alright in college, but his pro football days have had their share of lows, very low-lows to be exact. Rick’s lowest point in his American NFL career comes at the start of the story. Grisham does a superb job of creating strong visual and emotional appeal throughout, beginning with the opening scene. Because Rick has a sense of humor, there are times when you might laugh outright while you read this story.
Rick’s performance in the AFC Championship game, a competition the Browns hadn’t been to in many years, is so bad that Rick has to get out of the city pronto. Not only does the team no longer want him, the fans don’t want him anymore either. It’s bad, very bad. His agent gets on the phone and cuts a deal for him. The deal sends Rick to a place he not only has never been to before, it sends Rick to a place he’s never heard of before – Parma, Italy.
Grisham is very good at bringing Parma and all of Italy to life. I could almost taste the food as he took Rick throughout Parma, meeting his new Italian football teammates at different restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Sprinkled in with the superb food, scenery and culture is a bit of romance. There are surprises along the way. One message I took away from the story was how life gives us second chances in ways we don’t expect and may not even want. Rick Dockery certainly never thought about playing football for a team in Italy, but he did, and his life gets both hectic and hopeful after he lands in the country and starts to get settled in just a bit.
From start to finish, Playing for Pizza is a story that keeps readers guessing in a masterful way. I wanted to know what was going to happen next to Rick. I also couldn’t help but wonder how Rick might mess his life up further. He was a guy who seemed to find potholes when he wasn’t looking for them, but he’s funny. He’s the kind of guy who’ll make you laugh while you watch him try to get along in life.
If you’ve never been to Italy, Playing for Pizza will get you there with a lot of laughs, insight and mishaps along the way. If you love football, you’ll treasure this story. If you wouldn’t mind a second chance at getting something right, you’ll appreciate Rick Dockery’s “open to chance” attitude. This one’s a good read.
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