“My ambition has long felt oppressive. It is not a joy—it is a master that I must answer to, a smoke that descends into my life, making it hard to breathe. It is only my discipline, my willingness to push myself harder, that has been my way through.”
At 37, Carrie Soto is a retired, celebrated tennis player. The year is 1994 and she is sitting in the stands with her dad, Javier who introduced her to tennis and was her coach for a long time. They are both watching Nicki Chan at the US Open as she inches closer to breaking Carrie’s record of having the most Grand Slam titles. Carrie is not having it and decides there and then to un-retire to defend/maintain her titles.
Her retirement opens the floodgates for the media, who have never liked her, to share their not so nice opinions about Carrie who is nicknamed “The Battle-Ax”. It also brings back someone from the past, fellow tennis player, Bowe Huntley who is also trying to prove something to himself before he retires. Jenkins takes us on a journey of all the events that led Carrie to this moment and how she deals with this new phase in her life.
“One of the great injustices of this rigged world we live in is that women are considered to be depleting with age and men are somehow deepening.”
TJR rarely misses for me and this was no different. I absolutely loved this book. It didn’t take long for me to get swept into Carrie’s world. Something TJR does well is that she creates world that feels so real that you start wondering if you aren’t reading a biography. It felt so real to me that I spent so much time googling each tennis tournament as it came up in the book. The pacing of this book was just right and nothing dragged. I truly enjoyed Carrie as a character and I loved how unapologetic she was. I know TJR was trying to subtly point out the injustices of how women are being treated vs. men and she achieved it.
“I am afraid of losing. I am afraid of how it will look to the world. I’m afraid of this match being the last match my father ever sees me play. I am afraid of ending this all on a loss. I am afraid of so much.”
Another character I truly liked was Carrie’s dad, Javier. It was fun watching the many stages of their relationship and how TJR fully developed it for our understanding. Carrie was a hard shell but you could tell she had a soft spot for her dad. Just like her character, TJR wrote their relationship as flawed which made it realistic. Javier was so good at tennis that I kept wondering how much research TJR did to come up with all the techniques and tricks that Carrie had to do to keep up with her opponents. I want to add that it may seem little but I appreciated TJR infusing Javier’s culture in the moments when he speaks to Carrie in Spanish.
“When did I lose that? The delight of success? When did winning become something I needed in order to survive? Something I did not enjoy having, so much as panic without?”
One thing TJR does in her books is she infuses characters from her other books. When I started this book, I was confused because I thought it was a sequel to Malibu Rising till it dawned on me that it wasn’t a sequel and instead Carrie was the person Nina’s husband left her for in the book. It’s easy to think this was just a book about tennis but not at all. If you ever watched the show Friday Night Lights, it’s something like that. Where the anchor is the sport but it’s truly about everything else surrounding it and life as we know it. CSIB had a lot of heart and soul and I liked how it ended. I enjoyed every stop along the way and the lessons learned as well.
Just in case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend this one.