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If you’re looking for a quirky novel to spice up your audiobook collection, “The Throwback Special” by Chris Bachelder should be at the top of your list. This character-driven narrative takes readers on a unique journey that’s sure to keep you engaged from start to finish. In this audiobook review, we’ll dive into the details of why this novel is a must-listen for any avid audiobook enthusiast.

Key Takeaways

  • “The Throwback Special” by Chris Bachelder is a quirky novel filled with unique storytelling and compelling characters.
  • This audiobook review will explore the main themes of the novel, its character development, and the performance and delivery of the audiobook.
  • We’ll also examine the critical acclaim surrounding the novel and provide recommendations for readers looking for similar works.
  • Overall, “The Throwback Special” is a must-listen for fans of unconventional storytelling and character-driven narratives.

Overview of “The Throwback Special”

Published in 2016, “The Throwback Special” is a quirky novel by Chris Bachelder. The story revolves around a group of men who gather annually to reenact a famous football play that resulted in a traumatic injury to the player involved. The novel explores themes of masculinity, regret, and the search for meaning in life.

Plot Summary

The novel opens with the introduction of the 22 men who travel to a nondescript hotel to relive the moment when Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann’s leg was gruesomely shattered on the field. The men reenact the play in painstaking detail, but their annual tradition takes a turn when Henry, one of the participants, suffers a heart attack.

As the men deal with the aftermath of Henry’s medical emergency, the narrative explores each character’s backstory and motivations for participating in the reenactment. As their personal struggles unfold, the men grapple with difficult questions about life, mortality, and self-discovery.

Main Themes

“The Throwback Special” is a thought-provoking novel that touches on several main themes:

  • Masculinity: The men’s obsession with football and the reenactment of a violent injury highlights a traditional sense of masculinity tied to physical toughness and endurance.
  • Coping with Regret: Many of the characters in the novel are dealing with regret and feelings of missed opportunity or lost potential, which plays a central role in their motivations for participating in the reenactment.
  • Meaning and Purpose: The novel explores the search for meaning and purpose in life, with many characters feeling unfulfilled and searching for something more.

Next, we’ll delve into the character development in “The Throwback Special,” analyzing the main characters and their arcs throughout the novel.

Character Development in “The Throwback Special”

One of the most compelling aspects of “The Throwback Special” is the character development. Bachelder expertly portrays each character’s journey through different stages of their lives, creating an immersive and relatable narrative.

The main characters all have distinct personalities and backgrounds, and their arcs are expertly developed throughout the novel. The diverse group of men who gather annually to reenact a famous football play gradually reveal their fears, hopes, and struggles as they navigate life’s challenges.

The character analysis in “The Throwback Special” highlights the importance of character arcs in driving the plot. The characters’ growth and development contribute to the overall story in a way that feels authentic and impactful. Each character’s unique perspective and experiences allow readers to gain a deeper understanding of the novel’s themes and messages.

Major Characters in “The Throwback Special”

Character Name Personality Traits Arc Description
Chris Stoic, reserved, self-reflective Goes from being emotionally distant to confronting his past traumas, culminating in a vulnerable moment where he reveals his deepest fears and regrets.
Teddy Loud, boisterous, comical Transforms from a clownish figure to a more introspective and empathetic character, grappling with the challenges of fatherhood and masculinity.
Tim Neurotic, anxious, detail-oriented Moves from being fearful and uptight to accepting uncertainty and risks, ultimately finding a renewed sense of hope and optimism.

“Bachelder’s character arcs in “The Throwback Special” showcase the power of growth and change. Each character’s journey feels authentic and compelling, enhancing the reader’s investment in the story.”

Overall, the character development in “The Throwback Special” is a testament to Bachelder’s talent as a writer. The unique personalities and intricate storylines create a narrative that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. By analyzing the character arcs and their contributions to the plot, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for this exceptional novel.

Narrative Style and Structure of the Audiobook

The audiobook version of “The Throwback Special” by Chris Bachelder is a unique listening experience that heightens the novel’s quirky storytelling. The narration by a full cast of voice actors adds depth to the book’s characters and enhances their individual stories.

The structure of the audiobook also contributes to its effectiveness. The novel is divided into short, manageable chapters that create an episodic feel and allow listeners to easily follow along. The use of vivid descriptions and sensory details in the novel is further enhanced by the audiobook format, making it a compelling listening experience that draws listeners in.

“The audiobook truly does justice to Bachelder’s unconventional storytelling, making it a must-listen for fans of the novel.”

Exploring Quirkiness in “The Throwback Special”

One of the unique aspects of “The Throwback Special” is its quirky elements and unconventional storytelling. Author Chris Bachelder takes a fresh approach in his character-driven narrative, bringing an unexpected humor and complexity to the story.

One of the quirky elements is the central premise of the novel: a group of middle-aged men gather together annually to reenact a football play from decades ago. This unusual setup allows Bachelder to explore themes of masculinity, aging, and nostalgia in a way that is both humorous and thought-provoking.

In addition to the premise, the story also utilizes unconventional storytelling techniques. Through different perspectives and non-linear timelines, Bachelder weaves together a complex and fascinating tapestry of the characters’ lives and histories. This keeps the listener engaged and invested in the story, as the unconventional structure defies expectations and leads to surprising revelations.

Overall, the quirkiness and unique aspects of “The Throwback Special” make it a standout novel. Bachelder’s unconventional approach to storytelling adds depth and humor to the narrative, making it a memorable experience for audiobook enthusiasts.

Quirky elements in The Throwback Special

Analysis of Themes in “The Throwback Special”

As readers dive deeper into “The Throwback Special,” it becomes clear that the novel is about much more than a group of men watching a football game. Bachelder uses the unique concept of the novel to explore various underlying themes and send social commentary.

One such theme is the struggle for connection and intimacy. The disparate characters in the story are brought together by their shared love for football, but over the course of the novel, they are forced to confront deeper emotional issues.

Bachelder’s sharp observations of contemporary life are also on full display. Through the unique lens of the football game, he delves into issues of masculinity, friendship, and societal expectations.

The novel also offers a commentary on the role of nostalgia in modern life. The men in the story are all obsessed with reliving a moment from their past, but as the novel progresses, they are forced to question whether this intense focus on the past is healthy or productive.

Ultimately, “The Throwback Special” is a thought-provoking novel that encourages readers to examine their own emotional lives and societal expectations. Through its quirky premise and engaging characters, Bachelder shines a light on the complexities of contemporary life.

Performance and Delivery in the Audiobook

When it comes to audiobooks, performance and delivery are crucial factors to consider. In the case of “The Throwback Special” by Chris Bachelder, the narration quality and voice actors contribute significantly to the overall listening experience.

The audiobook performance of “The Throwback Special” is well-executed and engaging. The narrator’s delivery is clear and expressive, bringing the quirky characters and their unique experiences to life. The voice actors play an essential role in the audiobook’s success, as their performances help to distinguish the characters and add depth to the narrative.

Overall, the performance and delivery in the audiobook version of “The Throwback Special” enhance the listening experience and add to the enjoyment of the novel.

“The audiobook performance of ‘The Throwback Special’ is well-executed and engaging.”

Reception and Critical Acclaim

Since its publication in 2016, “The Throwback Special” has received widespread critical acclaim and positive reviews from literary circles.

BookPage praised the novel, stating that “Bachelder’s quirky and character-driven narrative is a must-read for anyone who loves offbeat stories.” Similarly, NPR described the novel as “a masterful exploration of masculinity and identity in contemporary society.”

In addition to glowing reviews, “The Throwback Special” was also shortlisted for the 2016 National Book Award in Fiction and the 2017 Believer Book Award, cementing its place as a notable work of contemporary literature.

Bachelder’s novel has clearly resonated with readers and critics alike, cementing its place as a unique and noteworthy work of fiction.

Comparisons and Similar Works

If you enjoyed “The Throwback Special” by Chris Bachelder, we have some related recommendations for you. Here are some similar books:

Book Title Author Similarities
The Mezzanine Nicholson Baker The Mezzanine follows an office worker’s inner monologue on his lunch break, much like The Throwback Special has a character-driven narrative.
The Last Samurai Helen DeWitt Both The Last Samurai and The Throwback Special have unconventional storytelling techniques that can leave readers questioning what’s real and what’s imagined.
The Instructions Adam Levin Similar to The Throwback Special, The Instructions is a quirky novel that follows the story of a young boy.

These comparable novels depict similar themes, such as self-discovery, unconventional storytelling, and quirky characters. We recommend checking them out if you enjoyed Chris Bachelder’s The Throwback Special.


Overall, “The Throwback Special” by Chris Bachelder is a unique and quirky novel that we highly recommend for audiobook enthusiasts. The character-driven narrative and exploration of themes make it a compelling story, and the audiobook’s narration and voice actors enhance the listening experience.

We give “The Throwback Special” an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. The only reason it did not receive a perfect score is because its unconventional storytelling may not appeal to all readers.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for an audiobook that offers something different, “The Throwback Special” is definitely worth a listen.


What is “The Throwback Special” by Chris Bachelder about?

“The Throwback Special” is a quirky novel that delves into the lives of a group of men who gather annually to reenact a historic football play. Set against the backdrop of their unique tradition, the novel explores themes of masculinity, friendship, and the search for meaning.

Can you provide a brief overview of “The Throwback Special”?

Certainly! “The Throwback Special” follows a group of men who come together each year to reenact a 1985 football play. As they gather to perform the throwback special, they reflect on their lives, exposing layers of vulnerability and exploring the complexities of human connection.

How are the characters developed in “The Throwback Special”?

The character development in “The Throwback Special” is a key element of the novel. Bachelder carefully unveils the inner worlds of each character, their fears, desires, and struggles, allowing readers to deeply resonate with their unique journeys and arcs.

What is the narrative style and structure of the audiobook version?

The audiobook version of “The Throwback Special” offers a captivating storytelling experience. The narrator skillfully brings the characters to life, immersing listeners in the emotional depth of the story. The structure of the audiobook enhances the overall listening experience, maintaining a steady pace and allowing for seamless transitions between different perspectives.

What makes “The Throwback Special” stand out with its quirkiness?

“The Throwback Special” stands out for its unconventional storytelling and unique elements. Bachelder infuses the narrative with humor, introspection, and unexpected moments, creating a distinctive reading experience that keeps readers engaged and entertained.

Can you provide an analysis of the themes in “The Throwback Special”?

Absolutely! “The Throwback Special” explores several themes, including masculinity, vulnerability, friendship, and the pursuit of purpose. Bachelder skillfully weaves these themes throughout the narrative, offering thought-provoking insights and social commentary.

How is the performance and delivery in the audiobook?

The performance and delivery in the audiobook version of “The Throwback Special” are exceptional. The narrator’s voice captures the essence of each character, adding depth and emotion to the story. The voice actors’ performances are compelling, further enhancing the overall listening experience.

How has “The Throwback Special” been received by critics?

“The Throwback Special” has garnered critical acclaim since its release. It has received positive reviews for its unique storytelling, rich character development, and thought-provoking themes. The novel has been recognized with several awards and nominations, solidifying its place as a highly regarded literary work.

Are there any similar works or recommendations for those who enjoyed “The Throwback Special”?

If you enjoyed “The Throwback Special,” you might also appreciate other quirky and character-driven novels such as “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan or “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace. These books share a similar narrative style and explore themes of human connection and self-discovery.

What are your final thoughts on “The Throwback Special” as an audiobook?

In conclusion, “The Throwback Special” is a captivating audiobook that excels in its storytelling, character development, and thematic exploration. The unique quirkiness of the novel, coupled with the exceptional performance and delivery, make it a highly recommended listen for audiobook enthusiasts seeking a thought-provoking and engaging experience.

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