Gold by Chris Cleve, Simon and Schuster, $27 hardback
Reviewed by Joan Leotta
Cleve is a powerful writer who pulled me kicking and screaming to the finish page, loving every moment of his prose, despite disliking his characters and the subject matter. How did the man get so deeply into the head of the two lead women, Zoe and Kate? How could he understand the dreams of a sick child, Sophie, so well? And Jack and Tom, the main male characters? Strong yet not dominating? What would you sacrifice for the people you love? That is the tagline on the inside cover. It’s what made me pick up this story of Olympic bound super athletes (cycling) and at the same time what made me want to put it down. I am about as athletic as limp toast. I am competitive in my field, but not cut throat (ever understood the value of climbing over someone else to get where you want to go.) So, at various times I put this book down in disgust. Yet, from my nightstand, or the end table, this novel kept softly whispering to me. Cleve’s incisive prose is a clarion call to anyone who loves language. Yet, at the same time, like watching a great magician, his secrets are not readily apparent. I can say characterization and dialogue, etc, but I cannot point you to particular elements as I can in other books. The whole is what works here and it is what pushed me to careen on to the finish line–just as his cyclists do in their races; sometimes panting at the effort it cost me because I really disliked the main women. For me, the answer to the question of what comes first is easier –family first. But I was taught that by word and example from childhood. These folks did not have that benefit and Cleve broadened my understanding, made me finally sympathetic toward these women and at the end did not leave me despairing as I thought he would. I would not say they turned out to have hearts of gold after all, but I was pleased that after pushing me to the finish against all odds, Cleve did let up the pressure with a happily unexpected end. Good, but hard (emotional) read.