The Hopeful

Tracy O’Neill. Ig (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-63246-002-8
Debut author O’Neill sets her novel in the world of competitive figure skating, but ultimately it’s a universal story about aspiration and imperfection. Alivopro (a contraction of the Latin phrase alis volat propriis, meaning “she flies with her own wings”) was adopted as a baby by the Doyles, a childless New Hampshire couple who snipe at each other but are utterly devoted to their adopted daughter. When she shows an aptitude for figure skating, her father eagerly drives her to a Boston skating club for coaching, while her mother, the consummate homemaker, organizes the family’s life. But after Ali suffers a serious fall that will likely end her skating career, her family seems at loose ends: her parents reveal their shortcomings while Ali secretly takes amphetamines to try to regain her skater’s figure and return to the ice. Ali’s caustic, unapologetically self-centered voice is strong and well-developed, and the secondary characters—especially Ali’s parents, but also her tutor and her pregnant cousin—offer both thematic reinforcement and opportunities for humor. The novel’s framework is a series of psychotherapy sessions that serve as jumping-off points for Ali’s flashbacks to her skating career and post-accident crises; the conceit is a little shopworn, but O’Neill nevertheless offers a new spin on the sports novel, rarely relying on easy metaphors and instead using Ali’s thwarted ambition to explore other ideas of heredity, ambition, maturity, failure, and, yes, hope. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/20/2015
Release date: 06/01/2015
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-63246-007-3
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