© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Taylor Jenkins Reid is back — with a sports novel that explores athletic ambition

In previous books, author Taylor Jenkins Reid has explored old Hollywood, rock music, surfers and supermodels. Her newest novel, “Carrie Soto Is Back,” takes us deep into the world of professional tennis, with the story of a champion who returns to defend her record-breaking run of Grand Slam titles.

It’s likely no coincidence that its release date coincides with the start of the U.S. Open in New York City. Even readers who don’t follow tennis closely, like myself, will be so inspired by the story, they’ll want to tune in to see the real-life version.

The novel’s title character is a driven athlete coached by her father, Javier. She becomes known as “The Battle-Axe” — and other names we can’t really say on public radio — for her brutal, unflinching, unapologetic focus on being the best. When an injury sends Carrie into retirement, upstart Nicki Chan comes along to tie her record. Then, at 37, Carrie decides to come back to tennis for one more year and one more run at greatness.

Jenkins Reid writes with the energy and grace of an athlete, with descriptions of powerful serves and tense volleys that keep the pages turning. Interspersed within the main story are ESPN-style reports and, of course, a love story. It’s all seamless and stunningly told. Loyal readers of Taylor Jenkins Reid also will appreciate several Easter eggs that hint back to previous novels.

Carrie is a flawed but inspiring main character, and her story is a timely one of unflinching female ambition. I highly recommend the audio from Libro.fm, which features narrator Stacy Gonzalez and an ensemble cast. Even non-sports fans will appreciate the compulsive story, which takes its time and skillfully explores what it means to be great.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.