I got a copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. It was a very engaging book that was hard to put down; but there were parts I didnt enjoy. I also thought everything was a bit too tidily tied up for this to be an accurate representation of real life.
This is a story about three cyclists on their way to the Olympics. Kate, Zoe, and Jack meet at nineteen years of age during a training camp. They are all exceptional cyclists...they are all seemingly destined for Gold. Kate and Jack marry and Zoe remains competitive and alone. As the years go on things change. Kate misses her first chance at Gold when she has to stay home with her newborn girl. Kate misses her second chance when her daughter is diagnosed with Leukemia right before Kates race. Year pass and now it is time for Kates third and final chance to go to the Olympics. Will Kate and Zoe finally be able to meet up in an Olympic competition?
This ends up being a story about family versus competition. It is also the story about how one woman can ruin a lot of peoples lives. There are parts in this story that are very engaging and heartfelt and parts that just felt totally wrong. The story itself is told in both the past and present; we hear bits of both past and present from Kate, Zoe, Sophie, Jack and their coach.
Kate and Zoe are interesting and contrasting characters. Kate is naturally more talented but constantly puts others before herself. She is very Pollyanna in character and I absolutely could not understand how she got as far in competition as she had. She pretty much lets everyone walk all over her constantly. You can tell I didnt really enjoy her as a character; although she did have to make some tough decisions and my heart went out to her at points in the book.
Zoe is an impossible character to like. She is competitive to the point of obsession. Her and Kate are supposedly friends, but even Zoes acts of friendship have a motive behind them. Zoe is truly one of the most destructive characters I have ever read about; she destroys everything.
Jack is another character that ends up being very hard to like. As secrets between the three characters unfold you find that Jack has made some very bad decisions in his past that have had huge consequences.
The most likable character of the bunch is Kates daughter, Sophie. Sophie is battling a horrible illness and constantly dreams that she is living in a Star Wars world; some of these scenes are heartbreaking but some of them are highly amusing. Watching how much effort Sophie puts into making sure her parents dont worry too much about her is thought-provoking and again heartbreaking at times. Sophie is by far the most interesting character in this book.
There is a lot of drama in this book which I am not a huge fan of; think Lifetime type of drama. I did however enjoy the discussion of professional cycling and all the training the athletes went through. I myself am a biker and really enjoyed learning about what these athletes went through daily to keep themselves in Olympic condition.
The book ends up being engaging because it is propelled forward by two questions: will Sophie get better and will Kate go to the Olympics. The plot has a huge twist in the middle that was somewhat predictable.
Things are tied up in such a tidy and happy way, that the ending felt contrived and fake. After all the emotional turmoil throughout the book the ending felt completely false.
So, did I enjoy the book? Well I found it hard to put down and really wanted to know what was going to happen to Sophie. I however did not like the characters much; Jack, Zoe and the coach are incredibly selfish human beings who have made horrible life decisions. Kate is completely boring and hard to admire at all because she has no backbone. The plot was contrived, predictable and everything was tied up in a way that felt fake.
Overall this was an okay read. Those who are into the Lifetime drama sort of literature might enjoy this book. Also those who are into cycling might find some of the discussion around the sport interesting. I found it an engaging read, but still didnt enjoy it much. Too much drama, characters that were hard to enjoy reading about, and a plot that was tied up in a way that felt very false.
I have heard Cleaves book Little Bee is much better than this one, but after reading this one I am not eager to read anymore of Cleaves books.
3.5 out of 5 stars -- Perfect to read while waiting to watch the next Olympics event!
This is a book about a trio of British cycling teammates who engage in a very competitive sport that requires stamina, determination, and strength. Mentally and physically challenging, those who train and race for Olympic gold do so at peril of reaching the limits of human endurance. The novel is about 3 racers -- Kate, Jack, and Zoe -- whose lives become intertwined at age 19 on the bicycle tracks of the elite cyclists chosen to compete at the highest levels.
This is not a romance or a love triangle, but a story of guarded friendship and indescribable sacrifice. The reader will grow to care for Jack and Kate as they help their daughter Sophie battle leukemia while still trying to pursue their own Olympic dreams. The reader will root for Zoe as she fights her own personal demons of longing and hidden pain.
The novel isn't about who wins the gold medal but about what athletes at this level must do for success. Is it worth it? Are the daily struggles worth the triumph?
The only thing taking this book down from 4 stars is that there's just a little TOO much description about the minutiae of cycling life and the actual races. In addition, the Star Wars references totally bored me as I'm not a fan. Other than that, I think anyone who loves to participate in or watch competitive sports will enjoy this novel.
PS - Got a kick out of the fact that both women and men from Great Britain won cycling pursuit!
And one more thing -- I hate the cover art for your books. BORING two color = thumbs down