A Natural

Ross Raisin. Random House, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-0-525-50877-9
This slow-building novel examines the unique pressures and trappings of the hypermasculine world of professional English soccer. After being cut from the national youth team, 19-year-old Tom reluctantly signs with Town, a middling squad floundering at the bottom of its division. There, Tom still fights for playing time alongside Easter, the team’s underperforming captain, who has a bad habit of reading message boards after losses. Most of the narrative bounces back and forth between Tom and Easter’s wife, Leah, a young mother painfully alone in her marriage. The author skillfully interweaves both characters’ feelings of isolation, setting up a number of strong reveals with impressive restraint and control. Once Easter goes down with a devastating leg injury, the disintegration of his and Leah’s marriage dovetails with Tom’s burgeoning relationship. The resolution of both stories is suitably heartbreaking, but the implications resolve themselves too quickly in a rushed ending that feels out of place in a novel whose power resides in authorial deliberateness. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile sports novel with winning characters. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/28/2017
Release date: 10/17/2017
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-68168-829-9
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