In “Circle Change”, author Gabriel Busch attempts to fuse a love story with a profound tale of reflection and redemption. Luckily for the reader, he succeeds by connecting on several levels. Set against the backdrop of major league baseball dreams and aspirations, the novel has something to offer for just about any reader.
Make no doubt about it, “Circle Change” is a love story. What sets the novel apart is the allegories and layers embedded within the narrative. The recurring theme of love is prevalent on several key levels. The love of the game of baseball is something many fans can relate to and is an important setting for the story. The love between a man and a woman is a universal motif and firmly addressed. The love of the city of New Orleans is clear in the characters’ interaction between each other and the city in which they live. Most importantly of all, the novel fundamentally addresses the notion of self-love through introspection, grief, forgiveness and redemption. No easy feat but Busch seems up to the task.
The story begins with Traynor Hamilton, a minor league phenom pitcher in the Houston Astros organization fulfilling his lifelong dream (and destiny) to become a major league pitcher. Originally from the US Northeast, he toils for the New Orleans affiliate baseball team of the big league club and grows to love his adopted city. In the process, he befriends an older, wise mentor in the form of his friend Charles who is constantly espousing sage ideals and infusing Traynor with a zest for life. Upon seeing a beautiful woman outside of an art gallery, Traynor recruits Charles to assist in his quest to meet her. Once he is acquainted with Gracie, they fall in love not only with each other, but also with the city of New Orleans, with the notion of spiritual growth (attained through the practise of yoga) and with the idea of Traynor making the big leagues. And make the big leagues he does. Like any good morality play, tragedy befalls and sends the protagonist on a quest for answers, introspective reflection and, ultimately, redemption.
The novel leaves a great deal of things unexplained at its conclusion. This is clearly by design as Busch is ultimately challenging the reader to determine an answer to the question: Is redemption possible? One can seemingly be guided by others in the pursuit of this answer but ultimately Busch is telling us that we can only answer that question for ourselves. The reassuring factor lies in the knowledge that we are never alone in our journey. Be it friends, family or seemingly random strangers, our fellow companions in the human race share our experiences, grief, pain and love.
The novel has lofty ideals indeed and delivers on most levels. Numerous grammatical and punctuation errors have occurred in the digitization of the novel but this is a problem easily rectified. In regard to effort, Busch deserves an “A” for his delving equally into the worlds of baseball, love, joy, grief and loss as well as an almost supernatural turn to the story involving Native American culture and spirituality.
The style of the novel is heavily reliant upon conversation in place of detailed description and as such reads almost like a screenplay. This may be Busch’s intent as the story would play out very well on the screen. Regardless, Busch has positioned himself as an author with a unique voice with more stories to share. Time will certainly tell but his initial foray into storytelling with his debut novel seems to indicate he is well on his way.