Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” —Groucho Marx

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Throw Like a Woman by Susan Petrone--A Review

Publication Date: March 24, 2015 

Number of Pages: 336 

Purchase Links: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - 


Forty years old, divorced, with two sons on the verge of adolescence and an ex-husband who considers visitation to be optional, Brenda Haversham isn`t having a whole lot of fun. She`s also no longer qualified for the work she loves, so she`s working in a cubicle instead while trying to make ends meet. 

Brenda is short on money, short on connection with her kids, and short on any kind of social life. The only thing Brenda has in abundance is her anger. And that turns out to be her greatest asset.

When she was a kid, Brenda`s father taught her how to throw a good fastball. That wasn`t of much use to a girl, but it is enough to astound onlookers at a "test your speed" pitching cage before a Cleveland Indians game. The more Brenda pictures her ex-husband`s face on the other end, the harder she throws. And when someone tapes her performance and puts it up online, Brenda becomes an Internet sensation - and then more than that.

Soon, the Indians come calling and Brenda finds her life taking a turn in a new direction. She finds herself standing on the mound as the first woman player in Major League history - and dealing with everything that comes with it. The money is great and the endorsement deals are even better. The fury of "traditionalists," not so much. And the conflicting emotions of her teammates are even harder to manage.

Meanwhile, Brenda`s home life is evolving faster than she can keep up, redefining her role as a mother, a friend, and even a lover. 

As the season winds down Brenda will find out if she has what it takes to be a winner - at both baseball and life.

A funny, poignant, and endearing debut from a writer of rare warmth and humanity, THROW LIKE A WOMAN is a 95-mile-an-hour heater of a novel.


Susan Petrone grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and although she`s moved away a couple of times (Annapolis, MD, and Alkmaar, The Netherlands), she lives there still. Her short fiction has been published by Glimmer Train, Featherproof Books, Muse, Conclave, and Whiskey Island. Her first novel, A Body at Rest, was published in 2009 by Drinian Press. Her second novel, Throw Like a Woman, is due out in March 2015 from The Story Plant. Her short story, "Monster Jones Wants to Creep You Out" (Conclave, 2010) was nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. Her plays have had performances and/or readings at the Cleveland Playhouse, The Lamb`s Club (New York, New York), St. Johns College (Annapolis, Maryland), and several smaller non-Equity houses in Cleveland, Ohio. She co-authors the Cleveland Indians blog (ItsPronouncedLajaway.com) for ESPN.com`s SweetSpot network. On the non-fiction side, Susan`s work has appeared on CoolCleveland.com and ESPN.com. She holds a master`s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Cleveland State University and lives with one husband, one daughter, and far too many dogs in a little house near some medium-sized woods. 



The third week of the regular season, Andy`s Little League team got discount tickets to see the Indians play the Tigers. Brenda went as a parent chaperone, and Jon went because he was the younger brother and would raise holy hell if he couldn`t come along. Even with the discount, tickets for all three of them plus factoring in a hot dog and a drink each put a serious dent in the entertainment budget. Brenda had made a "no souvenirs" rule for the outing, but when the boys saw the Test Your Speed pitching cage, they begged to be allowed to try. It didn`t help matters that every other boy on Andy`s team tried it, as did all five chaperoning parents, and two other accompanying siblings. She hated caving in to peer pressure, but she didn`t want Andy and Jon to be the only ones not to have a try. She took some of the money she had budgeted for snacks (she didn`t really need a hot dog or a drink) so Andy and Jon could each take a turn. Andy was pleased with his top speed of 48 mph. Jon`s best try was 33 mph, which disappointed him. Carl, Andy`s coach, kept trying to tell him that 33 mph was great for a kid his age, but it didn`t help. Brenda saw the familiar pink blush spreading up Jon`s face. Jon`s tantrums hadn`t eased up, and Brenda walked the fine line between trying to be understanding and not wanting to spoil him.

"Let me try again," Jon whined. "I know I can throw harder than that." 

Brenda put an arm on Jon`s shoulder and walked him a little bit away from the rest of the group. "If I give you the money for another turn, then I can`t buy you a hot dog." 

"Why not? I want a hot dog!" Jon said loudly, the tears in his eyes threatening to start falling any second. Brenda felt herself blushing as red as Andy`s face. "Why can`t I do both?"

"Sweetie, I`m sorry." She lowered her voice. "You had one turn already and you did great, but I don`t have enough money with me."

Carl wandered over and put a hand on Jon`s tiny shoulder. "Come on, sport. I`ll spot you another try." He looked up at Brenda with a smile. "You don`t mind, do you?"

"You don`t have to do that," she said. 

"I want to," Carl replied as he walked with Jon back over to the pitching cage.

"Thank you," Brenda said. "I`ll pay you back," she called after him, but Carl just gave a little wave that said, "No need to." Carl coached his son`s Little League team and was always patient with the kids, even the benchwarmers. He was one of those men who seemed kind enough and decent enough that you couldn`t believe some other woman had gotten rid of him. Brenda wondered if Carl`s ex -wife ever called him a jerk under her breath or wished he`d be stricken with a bad case of crabs. 

Jon was all smiles as he took the first of the three baseballs offered to him by the man running the pitching cage. He threw another 33 mph and then a 35 mph pitch. Jon was reaching for his third and last ball when he stopped and turned to Brenda.

"Mom, you haven`t had a chance to pitch yet," he said. 

Brenda tried not to get misty at her son`s gesture. "That`s very sweet of you to think of me, Jon, but it`s okay," she said. 

He turned and handed the ball to her. "It`s your turn, Mom." Brenda heard a little "awww" from the other chaperoning parents as Jon moved aside. She was touched by his generosity and figured she`d just throw the ball and get the boys to their seats. 

Ball in hand, Brenda approached the faux pitcher`s mound in the middle of the stadium concourse. A quick glance showed her that every kid on the team, as well as the adults and tagalong siblings (did she really just now notice that they were all male?), was watching her. A few people on the concourse had even stopped to watch, as if a 40-year-old woman with saddlebag hips couldn`t pick up a baseball without embarrassing herself. She stopped for a moment and focused on the image of a catcher painted on the electronic backstop. 

The guy running the pitching cage said, "Anytime you`re ready, sweetheart." Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him flash a condescending smile. "I`m not your sweetheart," she muttered. Without thinking, she threw.

She heard the familiar thwump and a small murmur of approval from the men standing around her. She looked up at the digital clock that displayed the pitch speed. It read 72 mph. The guy running the game looked more than surprised.

"Not bad," he said. 

"That was more than not bad," Carl said. "That was great. Here." He shoved a few dollars at the guy and handed Brenda three more baseballs. "Would you do that again? Please?"

This time, Brenda didn`t protest. She took one of the baseballs and faced the painted catcher again. She didn`t look around, but could hear some of the guys talking about her last pitch. She could swear a few more people had stopped to watch. Fine. Let them watch. 

Brenda`s next three throws were 79, 77, and 82 mph. That one surprised even her. All the people standing around congratulated her. Some mumbled that the radar must be broken, that there was no way a woman could throw that hard. She saw a couple of flashes of light, like someone taking a picture. The game was about to start, and the boys started running to their seats. As she and the other parents tried to get all the kids situated without losing anyone, Carl mentioned that he played baseball in the local Roy Hobbs league and maybe Brenda might be interested in playing. 

"It`s the veterans league--38 and over, so you have a few guys who think they`re hot stuff and a couple of them still are--but mainly it`s just guys who love to play baseball. You`d be great."

"I don`t know. I haven`t played hardball since I was a kid. And I can`t hit."

"Don`t worry about it, we use a DH. Josh! Ben! Get away from the beer stand!"

Their conversation was permanently interrupted by the process of getting all the boys into their seats without losing anyone. Brenda ended up in the row in front of Carl, with Jon on her right and a stranger on her left. Andy was next to Jon, talking only to the boys on his right or behind him and trying to pretend that he wasn`t with his mom and little brother. 

Once the boys had gotten their hot dogs and drinks, they settled down and were quiet for the first couple of innings, giving Brenda a little time to think. She considered the fact that she had thrown a baseball an improbable 82 miles an hour. She might have cellulite, a sagging rear end, and a stretch-marked stomach, but she had an arm. It was a satisfying thought.

"What are you smiling about, Mom?" Jon asked in between innings.

"Nothing much," she said with a little smile. "Just happy to be here with you and Andy."

"Mr. Fleishman asked you to play baseball with him, didn`t he?"

Brenda hadn`t realized that Jon had overheard their conversation. "Yes, he did. What do you think? Should I join a baseball team too?"

"Yeah, you should. You`ll need a new mitt," Jon said sagely. "Your old softball mitt stinks. But I think it`s a good idea. Then everybody in the family will be on a team. Andy`s on the Bears. I`m on the Twins. Dad`s on the Beeraholics. And you`ll be on a team."

Brenda actually snorted. "Dad`s on the what? The Beeraholics?"

"Yeah. It`s his softball team. Is a beeraholic somebody who likes beer a lot?"


"Like how sometimes you say you`re a chocoholic because you like chocolate?"


"The Beeraholics play on Monday nights, so we haven`t seen any of their games, but Dad and Darlene told us about it."

Andy had evidently heard at least part of the conversation, because he turned to Jon and punched him in the arm.

"Ow! Mom, Andy hit me," Jon wailed.

"I can`t believe you told mom about Darlene," Andy snapped in what was obviously meant to be a whisper but was loud enough to be heard three rows away.

Jon started slapping at Andy, who waved him off with a laugh that only infuriated Jon more. As embarrassed as she had been in recent memory, Brenda managed to cease the escalation of hostilities by moving Jon to her other side. 

Jon was silent until just after the seventh-inning stretch, when he looked up at her and said, "I`m sorry I told you about Dad`s girlfriend." He looked like he was about to cry, as though even uttering the name "Darlene" had been treason of the highest order.

Brenda put her arm around him. "It`s okay, sweetie. I didn`t know her name, but I figured Dad might have a girlfriend. He`s allowed to. We`re not married anymore--you know that. He`s allowed to date."

"But you don`t have a boyfriend," Jon whispered in a voice so plaintive that Brenda had to lean in very close to hear him over the noise of the ballpark.

"I live with the two greatest guys on earth," she whispered back. "I don`t need anybody else."


I love sports stories, baseball, romance and a well resolved story with problems.   I got it all with Susan Petrone's novel, Throw Like a Woman.

This was women's fiction at it's finest.  It was easy to relate and empathize with a hard working single mom -- her anger over a cheating husband, an ended marriage, and trying to re-establish a family of three from four.   Anger was Brenda Haversham's defining word.

This story was told in a realistic fashion....how upset would the world of baseball and men only sports be if women were allowed "in"?   This brought all kinds of issues front and center.  Some of Brenda's reactions were humorous and some situations were downright terrifying....not only for Brenda, but also for her kids.

There was definitely a ring of truth though with the reality of the heart of a woman.   Brenda's heart was determined to be successful, support her family, hide her wounded pride and any weaknesses from her coaches and teammates, and yet show compassion to her teammates.  Eventually she would even calm herself enough to listen to her ex and resolve the anger within.    Would she still be able to pitch without it?

Find out for yourself in this fast paced enjoyable story about the first woman to join the major leagues and how she survives it.

I rated this a 4 Wink Read!

Disclaimer:  I read for my pleasure.   I may receive ARC copies for review purposes, but I am not compensated for my reviews .  I like to read and I like to share my reviews.   I post my thoughts without prejudice or bias.  The words are mine and I write reviews based on my humble opinion.  I will admit, I seldom meet a book I don't like.  I received a copy of this book from the author or their representative in exchange for an honest review.

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