cover image 41-Love: On Addictions, Tennis, and Refusing to Grow Up

41-Love: On Addictions, Tennis, and Refusing to Grow Up

Scarlett Thomas. Counterpoint, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-64009-476-5

Novelist Thomas (Oligarchy) serves an ace of a memoir with this trenchant account about the pains of getting older. When she gave herself a tennis lesson for her 41st birthday, she saw it as “my last chance to do the thing I love, the thing that I was always best at, as well as I can.” She spiritedly recounts dedicating her sabbatical year to tennis and the matches she played against lithe younger women (“tall, slim, pert, slightly sulky young people”), the politics of coach-switching, and her fixation on optimizing her diet, exercise, and meditation routines. The obsessive present is informed by Thomas’s past, which includes a rotating cast of father figures and a traumatic abortion in her young adulthood. As Thomas rose through the ranks of over-40 ladies’ singles tournaments, her mental and physical health fractured, eventually causing her to step back from tennis entirely, but not before making it to Seniors’ Wimbledon. Though her wit is entrancing, the most striking characteristic of Thomas’s narrative is its refusal to end with “what I learned” enlightenment. Instead, she writes, “I have now pretty much made peace with the fact that I was a bit of an idiot in 2014.” This window into midlife desire is cathartic, amusing reading for anyone who’s wanted desperately to win. Agent: Daniel Mandel, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (Dec.)