Jul 16, 12
Read from July 11 to 14, 2012
The story of two women whose lives become entwined as teenagers when they begin training with the same coach to become world-class professional cyclists. Kate is a natural talent, whose life out of the sport has shifted her focus- she's married to another cyclist, and her young daughter is battling leukemia. Zoe has less natural talent, but makes up for it in drive and determination- cycling is the only thing in her life, and she is willing to sacrifice everything else in order to win any way she can.
So many parts of this story were well researched and interesting- first, the life of a professional athlete, which is incredibly grueling and focused on making your body a highly tuned instrument, with diet and training. Plus, the drama that comes when a small group of Type A personalities are together all the time. Second, the races themselves. While reading these parts I could feel my heart rate increasing, and I was completely wrapped up in the race, reading faster and faster until the race was done. Finally, one of the narrators of the story was Sophie, Kate's daughter, who is trying to keep a brave face as the cancer ravages her body. Chris Cleave included an afterward discussing his research in this area, and I would recommend that it not be skipped- the people that he interviewed obviously had a strong impact on his life, and it comes through in his portrayal of Sophie.
I really loved this, and it was a quick read. My one complaint-ish thing is the character of Kate- she was almost too perfect, and it made her feel less real. On the other hand Zoe can almost be too evil at times, and it made me feel less sympathetic towards her (by the end of the book she was much more sympathetic).
People might question the timing of this book- the end game is the London 2012 Olympics, and it was released during the Olympic trials. However, instead of seeing this as a money-grab, I feel like it is the work of an inquisitive author who took advantage of the Olympics taking place on his doorstep (Cleave lives in London, I believe) to get some good, strong research done. I know I will be paying much more attention to the track cycling this time around.