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The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness, and Baseball

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Growing up in a doomed hometown with a missing father and a single mother, Nicholas Dawidoff listened to baseball every night on his bedside radio, the professional ballplayers gradually becoming the men in his life. A portrait of a childhood shaped by a stoical, enterprising mother, a disturbed, dangerous father, the private world of baseball, and the awkwardness of first Growing up in a doomed hometown with a missing father and a single mother, Nicholas Dawidoff listened to baseball every night on his bedside radio, the professional ballplayers gradually becoming the men in his life. A portrait of a childhood shaped by a stoical, enterprising mother, a disturbed, dangerous father, the private world of baseball, and the awkwardness of first love, The Crowd Sounds Happy is the moving tale of a spirited boy's coming-of-age in troubled times. From the Trade Paperback edition.


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Growing up in a doomed hometown with a missing father and a single mother, Nicholas Dawidoff listened to baseball every night on his bedside radio, the professional ballplayers gradually becoming the men in his life. A portrait of a childhood shaped by a stoical, enterprising mother, a disturbed, dangerous father, the private world of baseball, and the awkwardness of first Growing up in a doomed hometown with a missing father and a single mother, Nicholas Dawidoff listened to baseball every night on his bedside radio, the professional ballplayers gradually becoming the men in his life. A portrait of a childhood shaped by a stoical, enterprising mother, a disturbed, dangerous father, the private world of baseball, and the awkwardness of first love, The Crowd Sounds Happy is the moving tale of a spirited boy's coming-of-age in troubled times. From the Trade Paperback edition.

30 review for The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness, and Baseball

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    There are only a few books I consider perfect: Tuck Everlasting, Book Thief, To Kill a Mockingbird, Search for Delicious...I'm not even sure I can describe perfect but I know it when I find it. This is a perfect book. It is a series of rememberings, both from the perspective of the age he was and from now. Woven in and out of the rememberings are baseball and his father. He never runs out of steam and the ending isn't happy because there isn't an ending. This was also an incredibly important book There are only a few books I consider perfect: Tuck Everlasting, Book Thief, To Kill a Mockingbird, Search for Delicious...I'm not even sure I can describe perfect but I know it when I find it. This is a perfect book. It is a series of rememberings, both from the perspective of the age he was and from now. Woven in and out of the rememberings are baseball and his father. He never runs out of steam and the ending isn't happy because there isn't an ending. This was also an incredibly important book because someone could read it and understand me as well. I understood me better. Even though many details of his life were different from mine, he described all sorts of things that are true, but so clearly and beautifully that I could see them there, read them a few times and feel as if someone completely understood me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carla

    I thoroughly enjoy well-written and perceptive memoirs especially when they have painful and hopeful revelations in equal measure. This book is a highly satisfying memoir that contains many wonderfully descriptive passages that capture the angst of growing up and feeling like an outsider. The author's life is colored by his father's mental illness, his mother's austere strength and determination and his love of baseball. The fact that he grew up in New Haven and graduated from Hopkins added to m I thoroughly enjoy well-written and perceptive memoirs especially when they have painful and hopeful revelations in equal measure. This book is a highly satisfying memoir that contains many wonderfully descriptive passages that capture the angst of growing up and feeling like an outsider. The author's life is colored by his father's mental illness, his mother's austere strength and determination and his love of baseball. The fact that he grew up in New Haven and graduated from Hopkins added to my interest. His mother is a former colleague and someone that I consider a significant mentor. Dawidoff's memoir multiplies my respect for her and reminds me to reflect back often on the parenting and teaching advice she gave me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    What a gorgeous book. It's about so much--baseball, family, obsessive fandom, dealing with the mental illness of a family member. The writer goes off on tangents that are all ultimately rewarding and interesting and, somehow, just right. What can't be ignored is the writing--it's stunning. What a gorgeous book. It's about so much--baseball, family, obsessive fandom, dealing with the mental illness of a family member. The writer goes off on tangents that are all ultimately rewarding and interesting and, somehow, just right. What can't be ignored is the writing--it's stunning.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patti Abernathy

    Not usually a fan of books about dysfunctional families but was led to this book after reading The Catcher was a Spy by the same author. At times I could relate to the sacrifices his mother made for the family but found his interactions with his father disturbing. I can not imagine what the years of this dysfunction must have been like. I also wondered what happened to Nick during his years at Harvard. I expected more baseball references but only at the end did I find something to ponder. Did ba Not usually a fan of books about dysfunctional families but was led to this book after reading The Catcher was a Spy by the same author. At times I could relate to the sacrifices his mother made for the family but found his interactions with his father disturbing. I can not imagine what the years of this dysfunction must have been like. I also wondered what happened to Nick during his years at Harvard. I expected more baseball references but only at the end did I find something to ponder. Did baseball help you face emotional truths or was it a way of not confronting them?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    My daughter Ryan says reading this book will help understand her, so I approached it a bit sideways, looking for what was Ryan more than just reading a book. I see why she was struck by the book. There is a lot of commonality – reading aloud, the Hardy Boys books, being poor and having a somewhat over-organized mother (the food shopping and freezing description was eerie), no TV, obsession with candy, even the scary parallels with the kidnapping of Jennifer and the Seattle kidnapping of Heidi (a My daughter Ryan says reading this book will help understand her, so I approached it a bit sideways, looking for what was Ryan more than just reading a book. I see why she was struck by the book. There is a lot of commonality – reading aloud, the Hardy Boys books, being poor and having a somewhat over-organized mother (the food shopping and freezing description was eerie), no TV, obsession with candy, even the scary parallels with the kidnapping of Jennifer and the Seattle kidnapping of Heidi (and Katherine being mistaken for Heidi three times as we walked home, but I don’t think Ryan would relate to that so much). I also noted that the author KNEW Eleanor Estes of the Moffats. The exploration of conforming/nonconforming was interesting too. I think I was modestly non-conforming; Ryan was from my vantage point wildly non-conforming; Katherine lived to conform. Of course, the overwhelming issue was the author’s relationship with his father; his desperate love and need for a father and then his need to get away from his father but at the same time his feeling of responsibility. I think Ryan also must have thought of her children and how they might respond to this book. Even if this were not a near sacred book because of its importance to Ryan, I would have enjoyed reading it. The author writes beautifully and uses a wonderful vocabulary (yes, I had to look up some words and I always love it when that happens). He manages to look at childhood from his adult perspective, but still retain how he reacted and felt as a child – a difficult task. Here are two of my favorite thoughts (there were others but I didn’t write them down). The first reminds me of my grandson: “Adolescence is life on the cusp. You crave options but none are forth coming because you’re not ready for them.” The second reminds me of my recent experience at MLA: “Part of me wished they hadn’t liked me so late, when I didn’t need them any more.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Claire Hall

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Nicholas Dawidoff's memoir of his childhood, "The Crowd Sounds Happy," is a painfully beautiful recreation of his inner and outer worlds as a youngster. The subtitle, "A Story of Love, Madness and Baseball," neatly captures the book's three principal themes. Dawidoff grew up the child of a single mother in New Haven, Connecticut. His parents divorced when he was young, and it was many years before he became aware that the father he only saw on weekend visits and family get-togethers was mentally Nicholas Dawidoff's memoir of his childhood, "The Crowd Sounds Happy," is a painfully beautiful recreation of his inner and outer worlds as a youngster. The subtitle, "A Story of Love, Madness and Baseball," neatly captures the book's three principal themes. Dawidoff grew up the child of a single mother in New Haven, Connecticut. His parents divorced when he was young, and it was many years before he became aware that the father he only saw on weekend visits and family get-togethers was mentally ill. His mother, a teacher, labored ceaselessly to fill the material and spiritual gaps in her son's life. Though her love for her son and daughter is clear, her presence seems too intense at times. Young Nicholas found his escapes in the life of the mind, the classroom, and in the athletic life, baseball. One of Dawidoff's previous books is a biography of Moe Berg, a major league baseball player of the 1920s and 1930s, who was also a scholar, fluent in a number of languages, and a sometimes spy. The parallels between Berg's story and Dawidoff's are inexact, but intriguing, and this book may offer clues to his interest in Berg. Like Berg, Dawidoff inhabited multiple worlds, guarded his secrets, and often found himself uncomfortable with his contemporaries. Both found escape in baseball; for Dawidoff it was not only his joy in playing the game, but in studying its history, and rooting for his beloved Boston Red Sox, who seemed to eternally come up short every fall. Dawidoff writes with great clarity and honesty. His story is often uncomfortable to share, but is beautifully and compellingly told.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ace

    Father's crazy - suffering from schizophrenia or some similar malady, his mother, forced to raise him and his younger sister without any financial help from her ex-husband, guides her families austere existence. He's bullied in school and worries that he may wind up like his old man in Bonkerland. In other words, this is the childhood memoir we all would write if we hadn't forced ourselves to forget the gory details. I bought the book because of the allusion to baseball in the title, but it wasn' Father's crazy - suffering from schizophrenia or some similar malady, his mother, forced to raise him and his younger sister without any financial help from her ex-husband, guides her families austere existence. He's bullied in school and worries that he may wind up like his old man in Bonkerland. In other words, this is the childhood memoir we all would write if we hadn't forced ourselves to forget the gory details. I bought the book because of the allusion to baseball in the title, but it wasn't about baseball all that much. It was a decent read. Some of us had it a lot worse that Nicholas Dawidoff, but no one seemed to care.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leah Smith

    I finally finished this gift from my husband. I love baseball and memoirs, so it was a great idea. Ultimately, it was depressing and added to my already-maudlin mood, so I'm not sure I can recommend it. If you are looking for a fabulous baseball memoir, check out Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin, another thoughtful gift from my husband. I finally finished this gift from my husband. I love baseball and memoirs, so it was a great idea. Ultimately, it was depressing and added to my already-maudlin mood, so I'm not sure I can recommend it. If you are looking for a fabulous baseball memoir, check out Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin, another thoughtful gift from my husband.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Lindsay

    The latest of my memoirs with baseball as the backdrop. I love how this is written, on the book jacket: "...moving piece of personal history that transforms ordinary moments into literature." This author's unbelievable detailed recollection of his childhood is impressive. First saw this book at Barnes and Noble, but actually got it through paperbackswap.com, a fabulous book exchange website. The latest of my memoirs with baseball as the backdrop. I love how this is written, on the book jacket: "...moving piece of personal history that transforms ordinary moments into literature." This author's unbelievable detailed recollection of his childhood is impressive. First saw this book at Barnes and Noble, but actually got it through paperbackswap.com, a fabulous book exchange website.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    A beautiful and moving memoir. Wistful in tone. I am struck by the honesty of the writing as the author confronts memories that are painful, embarassing, shameful, victorious, and loving. A portrait of an imperfect family in an imperfect world and a boy who grows in wisdom and mercy in front of our eyes.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meagan

    Really wasn't crazy about this book. It was in the sports section of Half Price Books but was definitely more of a coming of age story than a sports book. The author did not have an easy childhood, and while I felt for him, I just couldn't find myself engrossed in the story. I plugged through just to finish it. Really wasn't crazy about this book. It was in the sports section of Half Price Books but was definitely more of a coming of age story than a sports book. The author did not have an easy childhood, and while I felt for him, I just couldn't find myself engrossed in the story. I plugged through just to finish it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandie Brown

    I liked it. the guy dealt with lots of heavy stuff. weird to think mental illness was still so taboo even in the 70s. the author got wayyyy to carried away with adjectives and way too many big words! I think it would have been fine with less

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Kent

    This is our bookclub book so I will withhold a critique until after bookclub.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    Beautiful and true. Proper grammar.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Wonderful writing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

    Beautifully written memoir by the author of one of my favorite baseball books, The Catcher was a Spy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    The prose in this book is gorgeous and evocative as Dawidoff describes his childhood of divorced parents, one of whom was mentally unbalanced. Just a wonderful memoir.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Yes, it's a baseball memoir....and also a memoir of growing up with a mentally ill father. He writes very, very well. Yes, it's a baseball memoir....and also a memoir of growing up with a mentally ill father. He writes very, very well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anne Connor

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

  22. 5 out of 5

    Warren

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michaela Vine

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Kues

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kugel

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

  28. 5 out of 5

    pnina bright

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

  30. 4 out of 5

    Audriusb

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