A debut novel about the powerful role that tennis plays in the lives of two young men.
Roland Louis “Louie” Mouton Jr., the son of a dynamic, charismatic doctor in Lafayette, Louisiana, narrates this sports tale. His father, a die-hard tennis fanatic, is the proprietor of the Roland Louis Mouton Lawn Tennis Court who has always dreamed of someday shepherding a world-class player to fame and fortune; Louie’s future in the sport was curtailed by a rotator cuff injury suffered during his college years, so his father’s energies turned to Rene “Train” Pierre Lacroix, a young man from a broken home who took to the sport of tennis with both determination and an eerie amount of natural ability. Louie’s narration parallels Train’s story with that of Marcel Jackson, another young tennis natural, whose upbringing was less traumatic and more varied than Train’s, which gave them different approaches to the game: “The most important thing that Train had that Marcel didn’t,” observes Louie, “was a killer instinct, the desire to completely destroy the opponent, the desire to brutalize the opponent, the desire to win at all costs.” The story follows these two characters’ lives on and off the court, through professional challenges and twists and turns in their personal lives, and Cauthen interweaves a good deal of information regarding the history and lore of tennis into this dual narrative. The story is also very effectively redolent of the South, steeped in descriptions of its foods and music and its rhythm of everyday life. The interplay of tragedy and triumph in the lives of its characters—such as guilt over a death or complications from health emergencies—is uniformly well done. The novel suffers a bit from the open-endedness that afflicts many other sports-oriented stories (characters come and go, but the game goes on), but readers—and especially tennis fans—will find it gripping.
A rambling but evocative family saga of two gifted tennis stars and their families.