It was just after the New Year that I received an email from a small town mathematics teacher from Southeastern Minnesota who wanted to know if I’d be willing to read his new novel. CJ Boerger told me that his book, Chasing a Dream, featured the Minnesota Twins and Target Field in some portions, and that the baseball scenes would probably interest me as a baseball fan.
I had a pile of things to read for a book club and for work, but I was intrigued by his description of the novel. Obviously, the baseball angle interested me, as did the connection to my favorite team and the connection to Southeastern Minnesota, where I attended college and grad school.
Recently, I was finally able to read Chasing a Dream, and I was drawn in from the beginning of the story. The first portion of the book follows two storylines that seem to have no connection: an aging minor league pitcher, facing his demons as he strives to reach the big leagues, and a handful of brothers with terror on their mind. I was in the dark as the storyline of the brothers builds toward its crescendo, surprised and brought to tears when the connection between the two storylines is made. It was a moment that has a lifelong impact on main character Charlie Becker’s life. (The book actually brought me to tears twice. But don’t worry guys, I cry at TV commercials. It’s not a sappy book.)
Becker was once a pitching prospect who seemed to have no limit to his potential. The reason he is still soldiering through the minor leagues at 30-something unfolds over the course of the book, and it’s a heartbreaking story. Becker, however, is blessed with supportive family and a will to honor his father’s memory by making it to the major leagues. Having grown up in Spring Valley, MN, if he succeeded, Becker would do this with the team for which he grew up cheering.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that Becker’s view of the Twins has a lot of the author’s own view in it. It’s pretty hard to make up an authentic-feeling nostalgia for a sports team. Target Field is my favorite place, but I appreciated the sentimentality Becker has for the old Dome. And while the novel is engaging as a good story, Boerger is successful in making it a baseball story by painting a picture of baseball life – the grind of the season on players and their families, the drudgery of being on a minor league team, the juxtaposition of the up-and-coming player versus the veteran, team camaraderie – or tension – and what goes on in the mind of a pitcher.
By the end of the book, it becomes apparent that the title, Chasing a Dream, isn’t a simple task, nor is the goal as clear as one might think at the beginning of the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, but the closing sentence is what capped it. (Don’t flip to the back to read it first. Trust me.)
Is it a hit? I give it a triple. From a practical point, I appreciated that I could sit down and enjoying reading for long periods of time. Or, if I only had a few minutes, the chapters were short enough that I could read a short bit without feeling lost or that the story was too disjointed. Once I began the story, it was hard not to root for Charlie Becker. A first venture into published fiction, Chasing the Dream is proof that Boerger is a gifted storyteller.
For more information or to order Chasing a Dream, visit https://sites.google.com/site/chasingadreamcjboerger/home.