Review of Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
In Reid's newest novel, Carrie Soto is unapologetically driven and determined. I loved the tennis focus, the fast pacing, and the father-daughter relationship that drives the story. This was the right book at the right time for me, and I loved it.
Tough, talented Carrie Soto retired from tennis at the top of her game, as the best player in the world and the greatest of all time.
Her cutthroat desire to win didn't make her the most popular player in the world. But Carrie and her father, her longtime coach, sacrificed everything to get her to the top, setting records that have cemented her place in tennis history.
Now retired, Carrie is a spectator at the US Open when she sees her record challenged by a young upstart.
No one returns to tennis at age 37. But with her fierce determination, her (rusty) skills, and her desire to be the best, Carrie is the perfect person to defy the odds. Carrie Soto is back.
I didn't really connect with the story or characters of Taylor Jenkins Reid's Malibu Rising, but I loved realizing why the name Carrie Soto was familiar to me. You may remember Carrie Soto as a minor character in that book. She is painted as a villain there, and I loved digging into her personality and motivations here.
In Carrie Soto Is Back, we see Carrie fleshed out as a gloriously unapologetic competitor, an emotionally closed off romantic partner, a dedicated daughter, and a woman driven by a grinding commitment to brutally hard work and to being the best.
It's the 1990s, and Carrie is facing what in tennis is considered a geriatric age--as well as all the negative prejudice and pessimistic assumptions that commentators and the general public pile upon her because of her age and her manner. Her loyal father is in for the ride. And her dedicated manager Gwen is an inspiring, strong, independent woman who believes in any goal Carrie herself believes in, however unlikely others may consider it.
I love playing tennis and watching tennis, and I was 100 percent in for Reid's accounts of Soto's training, strategy, coaching, and match details. I'll be curious to hear if others without this particular interest are as engaged with this prominent element of the book the way I was. I suspect that as with Daisy Jones and the Six and its page time spent on the music world, bandmate negotiations, and creativity, Reid's ability to bring an unfamiliar world to life--in this case, the sporting and tennis world--will play well.
More than anything, the heart of this book is the poignant father-daughter relationship between Carrie and Javier. Carrie and her father love each other, but sharing their intense tennis goals and communicating primarily through and about tennis has led to some conflicts and some stress for many years. In the course of the story, each of them considers their approaches to life and what they have learned from each other on and off the court, and I loved this aspect of the book.
Carrie is back, but she's also considering her life beyond tennis for the first time, and this leads her to open up emotionally somewhat--with significant struggles; TJR doesn't make this growth too easy--and inspires her to consider those around her who may mean more to her than she's ever realized.
I was curious about the way Reid would craft the ending of this one, and I was satisfied with the character growth, the trajectory she sets up, and also with how in the end, nothing felt too easy.
I flew through this story--it was solidly a "right book at the right time" situation for me, and I also love that the book's release coincides with the start of the US Open. I loved this one.
I received a prepublication edition of this book courtesy of Ballantine Books and NetGalley.
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Taylor Jenkins Reid is also the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Malibu Rising, and Daisy Jones and the Six, a book I included in the Greedy Reading List Six Rockin' Stories about Bands and Music.