Gold by Chris Cleave
Published by Simon & Schuster
Review copy provided by the publisher
Zoe and Kate have been competitors and friends since the age of nineteen when they both made the national training program for track cycling. They’ve been through a lot together, including Kate’s getting married and having a child and Zoe’s Olympic gold medal, among all the regular aspects of life that best friends share over the years. Now, at thirty-two, they are facing their last and most important race of their careers: the 2012 Olympics. With Kate’s daughter sick with leukemia and Zoe’s intense drive and desire to win at any cost, the fact that they are competing against each other for a spot at the Olympics has the potential to sever the bond they’ve shared as best friends all these years.
It’s been quite a while since I read this one so let’s see how well my memory holds up. This is why I need to get better at writing about books right after I finish them! Ah, well …
Anyway, I really liked Gold! I can see why people enjoy Cleave’s novels so much because his writing is excellent and these characters were incredibly vivid and interesting to me. The competition/Olympics aspect of this novel was exciting and kept things pretty fast-paced, but it was the relationships between the characters and the major things they had to overcome that really held my attention.
There was a lot of focus in this novel on Kate’s being torn between her career as an athlete and her life as a mother to a very sick little girl. I think this is a struggle many women can relate to and it’s clear throughout the book that Cleave recognizes there are no easy answers for working moms. Not only would Kate be considered a working mom, but she is passionate about cycling beyond the normal person’s passion for their work. So she’s really conflicted when, at critical moments in her career, she has to make a choice between cycling and her daughter. It’s incredibly difficult to read and I think Cleave did a nice job showing how these decisions are gut-wrenching for the women who divide their time between work and family. One scene in particular illuminated this so heartbreakingly: when Zoe won her first Olympic medal, Kate would have qualified for the Olympics but instead stayed home with her daughter so that her husband, also on the Olympic cycling team, could compete in that same Olympics. The fact that Kate put her own career on the back burner so her husband could have a chance for success mirrors what many women do, in smaller ways, each and every day.
Things are not exactly what they seem between Kate and Zoe, and as the novel progresses, the reader comes to understand exactly how their friendship has developed over the years, and how it’s been tested over and over again, in tiny ways, and in some huge ways too. I liked reading about their friendship because I think it was realistic – to have a best friendship that works perfectly all the time is impossible and Cleave did a nice job showing how people can grow and change over the years and still remain close friends, if work is put into the relationship from both parties.
Well, I remembered more than I thought I would! I did like Gold quite a bit and I absolutely recommend it. There are a lot of great elements to this story and I think it will work for lots of different types of readers. Definitely give it a chance if you like character-driven stories OR plot-driven stories – Gold has it all.