When Mr B presented me with a new book to read together, one of his birthday presents no less, my first thought was that it was another book about Sport. What’s more, a book about cricket and the life of Yorkshire
and England wicket-keeper, Jonny Bairstow.
I wasn’t expecting it to be such a poignant, heart-wrenching read - a requiem, if you like, to the father
who committed suicide when young Jonny was just eight years old. Jonny, his mother and sister Becky discovered the body. It’s impossible to imagine how that experience must have scarred the two children - but their mother, herself fighting cancer, was
adamant that the family just had to keep going. There was, she told her bewildered children, no other way. Underlying every chapter is love and gratitude for the mother and sister who were always with him all the way.
As Jonny, with the help of fellow writer Duncan Hamilton, describes key moments in his own cricketing career, he is constantly reflecting on how his father went through the same, or similar, experiences
and wishing his father could be there to witness his own most shining moments. He wants to ensure that his father’s name lives on: “Most of all….in the book you’re holding: for that is the point of it.”
In my last review, of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” I mentioned that the book was about human kindness and the power of touch. Jonny describes movingly, how a pair of his father’s
wicketkeeping gloves, now a treasured family heirloom, contain the impression of his hands, as surely as if he’d just taken them off:
put them on, the gloves feeling big and floppy as I tried to push my small fingers into them….I couldn’t close the gloves, the leather was too stiff and cumbersome for the little strength I had then. But, when I had them on, it was like holding
hands with him.”
Definitely not your average sports book.