06/21/2010 12:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Meets Any Given Sunday

You don't have to love baseball or Brooklyn to love Diamond Ruby. I've never watched a full baseball game in my life, but the only thing I didn't love about this book was finishing it--because then it was over and I had to leave Ruby's world. Lucky you, you can still look forward to it.

If you want the perfect book to read while lying in the hammock this summer, even if it's only the summer hammock of your mind, get this book by Joseph Wallace. (You're going to want to pass it on, so you may want to buy an extra--because you're also going to want to re-read it.)

I don't like giving plot points away, but I'll say this: Joseph Wallace's inspiration for his book was Jackie Mitchell, who was signed (in 1931) to an all male-team in an all male baseball league in Tennessee. She struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. A few days later, the baseball commissioner banned her (and all women) from the league on the grounds that the sport was "too strenuous" for women.

Diamond Ruby begins in 1913 Brooklyn, when Ruby Thomas is seven, and then shoots us into 1920's New York in a manner which, for me, captured the danger and wildness of that era in a way I've never experienced. Coney Island's underbelly is mean and dodgy. Super-armed Ruby's story is half fairy-tale, and half knuckle-biting suspense (there were times towards the end when my stomach did actual flip-flops.) This book never lectures, but it teaches, in the best way, about the world girls lived in before the doors of opportunity creaked open and a time when death often followed the flu.

This story drew me in, then captured me and then rocketed to an intense 'gotta know,' until I put everything away until I finished the story. This is the book I'm forcing into my daughter's, sister's, cousins', and friend's hands. You can share it with your 14-year-old daughter and your 84-year-old Grandma, and even though I guess it's a baseball story, neither of them has to care a fig about baseball (I don't--although now I may start.)

Truth in posting: I am not a sports fan, but I am a rabid fan of sports movies, from Slapshot to Any Given Sunday (something my husband still finds baffling--he who can't get me to watch even three minutes of football.) I am not a YA fan (not that this is a YA book, but some might try to box it and thus push it out of sight) though A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my most beloved book.

Diamond Ruby may be A Tree Grows In Brooklyn meets Any Given Sunday. The author, Joseph Wallace, wrote about finding the courage it took to write in a female voice. Joe, you did the voice proud. This is a book I wished I'd never read, so I could still look forward to reading it. This is a book I wish I'd had when I was 13-years-old. This is a book that was a perfect read for me right now.
You're so lucky to have it in front of you.