Atkinson (Writing/Boston Univ.; Paradise Road: Jack Kerouac’s Lost Highway and My Search for America, 2010, etc.) takes readers on an exuberant journey into the center of the rugby scrum.
As a 35-year veteran of the sport, the author’s passion translates easily to the page, providing a reflective look at his entrance into what he dubs the “blood fraternity.” Atkinson makes no attempt to hide his zeal for the sport, explaining, “There are the things we do for love, and the things we do for rugby…” Atkinson addresses both, examining his struggle to serve two competing mistresses, writing and rugby. Throughout his graduate studies at the University of Florida, Atkinson began to understand the overlapping traits required for writers and rugby players alike: “grit, aggression, physical courage, loyalty, chivalry, insouciance and comic self-awareness…” While Atkinson attempted to hone these skills, he became distracted—not by his sport, but by its culture. When not on the pitch, the author and teammates forged their bonds in the bars, partaking in the usual rabble-rousing (including bar fights and the occasional run-in with the law). Yet Atkinson’s hijinks came to a halt when he learned of the death of his father, a life-changing event that forced him to confront emotional pain in addition to his physical pain. Though an overseas rugby tour helped him through his grief, it was not the sport that healed him, but the lessons learned from its grueling trials.
A testosterone-laden tale deserving of an audience well beyond the locker room.