The Tennis Partner: A Doctor's Story of Friendship and Loss

Abraham Verghese, Author, A. Verghese, Author
Abraham Verghese, Author, A. Verghese, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25 (345p) ISBN 978-0-06-017405-7
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 08/01/1998
In his eloquent memoir, My Own Country, Verghese described a parallel story, that of a stranger (himself) and AIDS both becoming part of a rural Tennessee town. Once again, Verghese weaves his own story with that of a place and another person to come up with something moving and insightful. As he tries to cope with a new job on the faculty of Texas Tech School of Medicine, the move to El Paso and the breakdown of his marriage, he meets David, a medical student and former tennis pro. Tennis matches with David reawaken Verghese's passion for the game, and soon the two become regular partners. Their connection is complicated by their shifting roles: Verghese, David's teacher in the hospital wards, becomes his student on the tennis court. For Verghese, the matches offer an escape from loneliness; for David, a recovering drug addict, even more is at stake. Only on the court can they reach a state of grace: ""our tennis partnership was special, different, sacred like a marriage."" Ultimately, as David's life takes some disturbing turns, Verghese finds himself forced to choose between his role as friend and that of authority figure. While David's story provides the main narrative drive of the book, it's interwoven with Verghese's descriptions of his AIDS patients, his relationship with his sons and meditations on El Paso's distinctive landscape. It's a hard trick but Verghese combines all these elements into a cohesive whole, moving easily between moments of quiet reflection and anxious anticipation. If, as he writes, ""to tell a life story [is] to engage in a form of seduction,"" then Verghese is a master of romance. Agent, Mary Evans. Author tour. (Sept.)
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