Read this as part of CBR14bingo: question. I wanted to know who Carrie Soto is and what she is coming back from. Later, I wanted another question answered…
I was at a bookstore about a month ago when I heard two people gabbing about Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new book, Carrie Soto Is Back. One began with, “I just finished the book…” and instead of the platitudes I expected, she continued “and I hated it. The lead character was terrible there was nothing else to go on after her.”
This kind of surprised me given that Reid’s books are almost universally loved by the Book Club sect this person was a part of. I myself have mixed feelings. I initially loved Daisy Jones and the Six but the more I thought about it, the less esteemed it became in my mind. Same with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I was only curious in this one because of its focus on sports, especially tennis, which is a great sport for a character study.
When I saw this at my library on express loan, the woman’s words rang in my ear. I decided to answer for myself if Carrie Soto was a hateful character or not.
The result? Complicated but in a good way.
Reading this, I kept thinking about Kobe Bryant and his singular pursuit to be the best individual in a team sport. He was a driven, determined, selfish, arrogant player the way Carrie Soto is.* He had criticism but most of what he received were acclimations like “fiery” and “driven.” Same for Ted Williams, whose biography I just finished. Same for Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, both of whom were more chided for their tantrums than excoriated.
I felt like this was a running commentary on how a woman is seen in that same lens and, while at times cloying, it was still a good exploration. I found Carrie to be a real three-dimensional character, one who struggles with her genius honestly and has a hard time relating to others. There’s a hollowness, an emptiness to the pursuit of an impossible standard, an unrealistic goal, that Reid does a great job of tapping into.
It’s not the most well-written of books; I think Daisy Jones is better, even now. But Reid is on to something. In each of the books I mentioned, she is trying to prove a larger narrative about the view of women in major industries: music, acting, and sports. She doesn’t always hit her marks but it’s often fun watching her try.
*TW: mention of sexual violence
Some say his anger contributed to his alleged rape but I think that’s a childish way to look at it. There are competitive people who know how to act as humans off the field/court and there are nice folks in sports who turn out to be horrible people.