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A few weeks before the kickoff to the 2012 London Olympics, I received an Olympic-themed novel in the mail: Gold: A Novel by Chris Cleave (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012). It is the story of Zoe Castle and Kate Argall, two track cyclists from Team GB who are friends off the track and fierce rivals on it.

gold

Character development is the make-or-break of any novel, and Chris Cleave delivers in Gold. He reveals each character slowly…Zoe’s eagerness to win at all costs and the demons in her past; Kate’s conflict between training for the Olympics and caring for her sick daughter Sophie. And conflict is the underlying theme here: Cleave captures the dynamic of two women who have a rich backstory together — they are each others’ arch rival, yet hold onto the most tenuous of close friendships. Their coach, Tom, is also conflicted — he wants both women to succeed as a redemption for his own failures as an athlete, yet he is forced to make choices between them. And then there’s Sophie…an unabashed Star Wars fan who wants nothing more to be healthy and to have her mother win in London.

Zoe, perhaps, is the most interesting character — she only knows how to win and is fairly helpless at anything else. The conflict and drama of her life off the track, her history, and her relationship with Kate, Kate’s husband Jack, and her coach is nothing short of epic. Will she find glory, or redemption, or a way to live with herself when all is said and done? The answer is right here in Gold.

Cleave also captures the essence of the athletes’ preparations without getting bogged down with technical details…most competitive cyclists will find parallels with their own routines (and laugh about some of them). Through the book, the author convincingly illustrates what it means to make sacrifices and to juggle family life, training, and caring for a very sick child.The book is fast-paced; one of those you just don’t want to put down.

Want to keep that Olympic spirit alive for a few more days? This book is a great way to do it…I thoroughly enjoyed it and am recommending it to all my fiction-reading friends.

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