“Netherland” by Joseph O’Neal is a gripping story about life in New York after 9/11 and would be suitable for Integrated Skills Level C or D. It portrays an uncomplicated and honest look into the life of a man, Han, trying hard to fit in. With few, yet interesting characters, the plot is straightforward and intense.
The novel also offers a beautiful look into the world of cricket. The vivid description of the sport and the players’ actions pulls in the reader, where they can almost visualize themselves playing on the ill-designed lawn. Cricket also symbolizes a place of solace, peace, and unity. This game is a means to bring together Han and other immigrants from divergent backgrounds that would otherwise have had no connection with each other. This motley group comes together and relives the days of back home. Here men, who otherwise were invisible in the bustling city of New York, come alive and visible.
This is also a place where Han, through the street smarts of Chuck, learns about life, family, conflict, and politics. Cricket brings out the common ground in all these men, able to share their life’s experiences on that field. It is also regarded as a gentleman’s game and a way of life. For example, Han wistfully reflects on men taking the cricket field and imagining it as an environment of justice. For some, post 9/11 and the use of the Patriots Act, represents a society without justice.
I think that the use of cricket and a post 9/11 USA offers a variety of perspectives from which to explore whether the USA, the “bastion of freedom,” exists or if it is merely a myth. In an interview, President Obama stated that he had been reading the book. Indeed, one wonders, what measuring rod will be used to judge him in the next election, will it be the sports objectivity or otherwise.