The Resisters by Gish Jen, review by Shelly Walston

March 26 would've been Opening Day 2020 but for The Virus. And while I've found a routine that is somewhat satisfying considering the circumstances of quarantine, the incongruity of beautiful, crisp spring days without the solid *thwack* of a baseball bat is harrowing to my baseball-loving soul. Thank the heavens for The Resisters by Gish Jen. 

Writer Ann Patchett blurbs that Jen's novel is "A stone-cold masterpiece," and it truly is. In a dystopian future crafted "because we always have a choice," AutoAmerica separates the Netted from the Surplus in an ever-stable capitalist society bent on supply and demand, production and consumption. The Surplus, those deemed Unretrainble or Unnecessary, live on houseboats in FlotsamTowns as the waters have started to creep inland. Their lives are constantly monitored for their consumption levels, and nothing goes unheard. Aunt Nettie, as the Surplus call AutoNet, is always listening. 

In the mix of Surplus are resisters like Eleanor Cannon-Chastanet, her husband Grant, and their daughter, the golden-armed pitcher Gwen. From her youth Gwen has loved throwing - first stuffed animals from her crib, then the small balls her father finds, and finally as pitcher for her team, the Lookouts, one of twelve in an Underground League. But bots, drones, and those with a watchful eye don't miss fake-out attempts, and Gwen is "given the choice" to join Net U's team or face the consequences. AutoAmerica has just reinstated baseball as an Official National Pastime, and Gwen's pitching prowess looks like the best chance the US of A has for winning against ChinRussia in the Olympics.

Jen finds a perfect pace in the telling of her story, and the stunning catches, the "swing-for-the-fences" glee of an afternoon around the horn, and blissful camaraderie of teams playing in the fading light of the day don't go unnoticed. Gwen grows into a "rock" that is unmovable, even when the things and the people most important to her begin to wither (physically and mentally).

If you're missing baseball, take an afternoon or two to read The Resisters. It might not feed the need you have to see a team go three-up, three-down in a single inning, but it will hit all of the notes that make baseball so utterly enjoyable: characters that inspire, circumstances that seem unwinnable, and a final chapter that sets you on your feet, cheering for the final outcome.

Staff Pick Badge
The Resisters: A novel Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780525657217
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - February 4th, 2020