Rubber Match

A funny, exuberantly plotted tennis and conspiracy novel from Cootsona.

This sequel to Slammin’ (2014, etc.) centers on Wally Wilson, a 59-year-old tennis teaching pro who won the 2011 U.S. Open due to some unusual circumstances, including an unbeatable serve, some international intrigue, and a disqualification. The story begins in 2013 with him and his wife, Danielle, on their way to a college tour for their son, Deuce, who would rather be a professional magician than go to school. Their van breaks down on the highway, which unexpectedly leads to Wally playing in an exhibition tournament. He eventually gets a spot on the U.S. team for the Davis Cup international team-tennis competition. Wally owes his spot on the team to Ashley Margincall, a 19-year-old billionaire who bought and revamped the Davis Cup competition and built a sports complex in Nebraska for Cup competitions in other sports, as well, including soccer, golf, and horse racing. If that wasn’t offbeat enough, it gets stranger: a set of shady characters are breaking into homes and meticulously cleaning and organizing them as they search for a lost Breughel painting that’s been forged tons of times. The plot, involving tennis and art fakes, is reminiscent of David Foster Wallace’s or William Gaddis’ work, but its biggest homage is to Thomas Pynchon: there are oddly named characters, such as Deeplee Arqane and S. Carrom Ouche; wacky locales, such as the Uncertainty of Causation Bar, full of Scottish philosophy buffs; conspiracies that may or may not exist; and puns galore, with much being made of the Davis Cup being called the “D-Cup.” Cootsona’s writing is dialogue-heavy and full of pop-culture references, from celebrities to sports. However, the shtick sometimes wears thin, as almost all of the analogies and metaphors are based on such references. But although the plot and characters follow the mold of Pynchon and Wallace, Cootsona’s sentences rarely dazzle as theirs do—though that’s a tall task for anyone—and the work lacks the emotional depth that belies the zaniness of the best postmodern fiction. That being said, this book is still a fun, whip-smart tennis read. An oddball but ultimately rewarding comedy.                                                                                  

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 213

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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