The Natural Bernard Malamud
"The Natural" is a story filled with metaphors as it follows the life of a baseball player named Roy Hobbs. He is a young man in the prime of his career and is on his way to Chicago to join the Cubs. At this point, things were looking great for Roy's baseball career, but then tragedy strikes. On his first night in Chicago, he's seduced by a woman who then shoots him. Roy survives, but the injury is a major setback. After years of rehab and playing for the minor leagues, Roy is brought up to play for the New York Knights, the worse team in Major League Baseball. Playing as a rookie in his 30's, Roy makes a big impact on the struggling franchise and quickly becomes a sensation in the baseball world. A lot of mystery surrounds him though, because no one knows anything about his past, which he refuses to talk about.
Bernard Malamud does a great job crafting this story which illustrates the highs and lows of Hobbs' baseball career. When you look at it from a metaphorical point of view, what happens to Hobbs is what happens to a lot of athletes both then and today, which makes this story feel even more realistic. There's a lot of character development and the plot has a lot of twists and turns from beginning to end. The ending is a little unpredictable, and it's not a feel-good ending by any means, but it's symbolically appropriate when you look back at all the events in the story that led up to this point.
Overall, this is a great book that every sports fan needs to read. It's not the most uplifting story you'll ever read, but it examines the life of a typical star athlete from a metaphorical point of view. Anyone whose seen the movie needs to read this regardless of their opinion of the movie. There are some similarities, but the differences are monumental. The movie is basically an optimistic feel-good story, which wasn't the point of the book at all. This is a lot better than the movie, and it's definitely worth reading.