Just in time for Labor Day, a book as American as apple pie. Maybe it should have been featured at a different summer holiday, but this is when I finished reading it–and it’s still baseball season and a book fits whatever season you read it.
This book was just released this summer and it was a great read for when swinging in the hammock, but be warned, there may just be a tears in the reading of it.
From the back cover:
It is 1952, and nearly all the girls 16-year-old Bertha Harding knows dream of getting married, keeping house, and raising children in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Bertha dreams of baseball. She reads every story in the sports section, she plays ball with the neighborhood boys–she even writes letters to the pitcher for the Workington Sweet Peas, part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
When Bertha’s father is accused of being part of the Communist Party by the House Un-American Activities Committee, life comes crashing down on them. Disgraced and shunned, the Hardings move to a small town to start over where the only one who knows them is shy Uncle Matthew. But dreams are hard to kill, and when Bertha gets a chance to try out for the Workington Sweet Peas, she packs her bags for an adventure she’ll never forget.
Join award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner for a summer of chasing down your dreams and discovering the place you truly belong.
I enjoyed this book for two reasons. One, I loved hearing another perspective on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Who doesn’t love the classic ’90s movie A League of their Own? Here’s a fresh take on what it was like to be part of that. The second thing I enjoyed about this book were the dual narrations between Bertha (the older sister) and Flossie (the younger sister). Oh, Flossie. What a hoot, she is.
This book is worth a read, and I think, a conversation. There aren’t any book club guides out there for this book yet, so here are a few questions for you to use to start a conversation about The All-American. (There are some mild spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.)
- Did you like the book? Why or why not?
- Which of the sisters’ perspectives did you appreciate more? Who did you relate to more: Flossie, the little sister with her youthful (and often funny) perspective or Bertha, the older sister with her more mature perspective, but still as a teenager missing a few things?
- What did you know about the AAGPBL or about the Red scare in the 1950s before reading this book? What knowledge did you gain?
- Bertha wants to be a Professional Baseball player. How did she pursue her dreams (or not)? Who helps her and how?
- The whole family is turned upside by the accusation that William Harding is a communist. How do each of the girls respond to it?
- When the family moves, the wider family situation comes into view. Families are complicated. What does the change in situation do to the family unit? To those who are now part of it? How do they each change and grow?
- Towards the end of the book, a tragedy happens. How did the girls respond to it? Did you resonate with their responses?
- This book also deals with themes of addiction, loss of a child and estrangement. Yet, it always feels hopeful. Why do you think that is?
- Who was the real All-American in this book?
This would be a great book for a fun discussion about girlhood, dreams, the pain of living, and the 1950’s. You should get yourself a copy, gather some friends and settle in for some good ol’ All-American fun.
Pssst. If you like this book of family drama set in the 1950’s, you may like either The Unfortunate Life of Genevieve Ryder or Lessons in Chemistry. You can check out my blogs about those books by clicking on their titles.