Gold: A Novel by Chris Cleave
Release date: 336 pp / 2012
Synopsis (from Amazon): What would you sacrifice for the people you love? Kate and Zoe met at nineteen when they both made the cut for the national training program in track cycling—a sport that demands intense focus, blinding exertion, and unwavering commitment. They are built to exploit the barest physical and psychological edge over equally skilled rivals, all of whom are fighting for the last one tenth of a second that separates triumph from despair. Now at thirty-two, the women are facing their last and biggest race: the 2012 Olympics. Each wants desperately to win gold, and each has more than a medal to lose.
Review: When I saw that Chris Cleave’s latest novel was out, I knew that I would read it — despite the lingering devastation of Little Bee, which was one of the most painful novels I’ve loved in a while. So I started reading Gold peeking through my fingers, waiting for Cleave to again rip out my heart.
Happily, Gold has all of his usual witty clear-eyed insights into human nature, yet none of the devastation of Bee. Gold tells the tale of three Olympic cyclists whose destinies are inextricably linked by the fate of one sweet, Leukemia-striken girl. I realize that reading about a young child with Leukemia may not sound light and pleasurable, but with Cleave terminally ill children are small potatoes in the realm of human suffering.
Gold is extremely fast-paced — and not only the riveting scenes of competition that Cleave creates with the skill of the best play-by-play announcers, but the suspense of watching the athletes cope with real life is even more compelling:
“It would be harder for them than they realized, because outside those exalted two minutes of each race, they were condemned to be ordinary people burdened with minds and bodies and human sentimental attachments that were never designed to accelerate to such velocities.”
“He’d been perfectly adapted to being nineteen, and she was better at being thirty-two.”
“How did you endure all the ripping and tearing, the disintegration as whole layers of yourself attached themselves to the surfaces of others and came away completely from your core?”
This novel is superb on many levels — as sports fiction, a testament to life after sports, a treatise on sacrifice and love. And, most importantly, it is the sort of novel you find ways to not put down once you have begun. I checked this out of the library, so no giveaway…