The Grumpy Player Next Door
by Pippa Grant
“The Grumpy Player Next Door” takes place in the world of the Fireballs professional baseball team. Author Pippa Grant has created this book in such a way that you can definitely enjoy it as a complete stand-alone. If you’re familiar with other books she’s written, you’ll enjoy finding several references to other stories within this one, and lead characters from other books appearing as excellent secondary characters within this one.
Max is an extraordinarily talented baseball pitcher and a key member of the Fireballs team. Cooper is Max’ best friend and Tillie Jean (TJ) is Cooper’s younger sister. Weighed down by considerable anxiety and emotional baggage from his difficult youth and lack of family connections, Max is not a man who believes himself capable of having any kind of meaningful relationship with a woman. Instead, he values camaraderie and friendship with Cooper and a few other teammates. Max keeps his interactions with women to brief, meaningless encounters. In his effort to protect himself from the overwhelming attraction he’s always had towards TJ, he retreats behind a grouchy shell whenever he sees her. TJ has a happy life filled with family and friends, yet she’s also long struggled with deeper issues about the meaning in life and her own potential. While Max and TJ struggle separately and together to make sense of it all, they’re immersed in a world of hijinks and hilarity, pirates and pranks, glitter and goats, parrots and passion. Several times I laughed so hard that I’m glad I was alone at the time. I have to take a moment and mention that Pippa Grant has again given us a grandmother who truly lights up the pages.
Although this book is incredibly funny, I want to stress again that it’s really emotionally complex in multiple ways. The slow burn goes on so long it gets a little stressful too. In the end it’s worth it, although you might need some pirate grog to get you through. The deft combination of the silly and the serious pull you in as a reader, and the quality of the story keeps you engaged right until the end. Max is a baseball pitcher, so I know this isn’t the best baseball analogy for this story, but I’m going to use it anyway … this book is a ‘home run.’ Read it and don’t get ‘shut out’!