Reviewed in the United States on October 10, 2012
Homage or indulgence - I'm sure there is a story there, but this book is by far one of the dullest books I've ever read. I can read almost anything, but this book took true concentration in a deprived plane, so I could finish it. I didn't enjoy the story, and though there was insight (like David planning his relapse), I felt like I was in a dessert just anxious about water. Nothing about the characters drew me in and the story wasn't interesting, therefore, it was very easy to put the book down. The writing, though intelligent, and precise, was not inviting. I really hated the italics of tennis, and I didn't care about tennis before and after the book. Story about author, Dr. Abraham Verghese and David Smith, a young drug addict, who was a resident at the hospital. Dr. Verghese has some background in tennis from Africa, remembers a painful time then, which I cannot discern. He is extremely diligent about keeping notes. He came from Tennessee, his marriage is broken up, he has two sons. (Actually, tidbits about author's own family situation was a highlight.) Dr. Verghese meets David Smith, and is delighted to discover he plays tennis. David is from Australia, has high arches, is handsome. David played pro, though claims he was not very good, and Dr. Verghese senses David was reluctant to play. They do play. A friendship develops. David reveals he is a drug user. There is something special about an injector, someone who is willing to inject a needle into skin, and sometimes the thrill of the needle is golden, as David's new girl reveals that David would sometimes inject himself w/ water. There is joy in drawing the blood then injecting to prolong the feeling. David lives w/ Mickie, who has a host of health problems, but seems to understand David well. David obsesses over girlfriend Gloria, then meets Emily at his addiction meetings. Emily works at the tennis shop. Emily provides a happy home. Dr. Verghese has since moved out of his home, to an apartment two miles away with no furniture, and understands Emily's taciturn response to his barren apartment - no television, and a U-haul box serving as a table for pizza. David concludes that his addiction relates to sex, not just a normal sex drive, but attraction to all women. He is a helpless womanizer. David's mother is ill. Dr. Verghese offers to pay the plane ticket, and David hoped he would not offer, but had come to Dr. Verghese knowing he would offer such, goes, stays for a few days then returns, claiming his mother is ill - there is nothing he can do. She dies, and David is also apathetic. Later, David relapses. Dr. Binder confides David planned this, and Dr. Verghese feels betrayed. Dr. Verghese tries to find David. Gato guides him, and Dr. Verghese is intimidated. There were the bad checks, and Emily breaks up with David, though still in love, selling her grandmother's jewelry and visiting. David had been scornful about his past treatment, praised the Talbot treatment but he had not been there long enough, because he starts to use almost immediately. At a hotel, they want to confront David, but David is almost like an animal, climbing out of a window, almost growling at them - savage. If this story was more about David, the hospital, Verghese's marriage, I would have liked it better. The parts I liked were the novelties - injecting, drug abuse, drug abuse amongst doctors, more about David - his family, likes and dislikes, etc., and even more about Dr. Verghese's marriage. The tennis part, despite the title, seemed superfluous. If there is a passion, it's not conveyed. It felt heavy, like Dr. Verghese was carrying a burden. He has written other books to describe his disporia, but this is my first introduction to him. Also, if he had explained tennis more, at least make it exciting - what is love, what is an ace - I could understand the book more. But it wasn't with an insider's comfort or patience. I didn't really like this book, and though Cutting for Stone is popular and tempting, I will skip that book and this author. Writing is a steady thing for him, but not something he breathes. Book wasn't a gushing passion, but a methodical, weary project, and it reads like one. Very staid.