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Carrie Soto Is Back


Carrie Soto Is Back

Known for her uncanny ability to dig deep into her characters’ hearts and minds, bestselling author Taylor Jenkins Reid returns with her most cutthroat, vulnerable protagonist ever. The title speaks for itself: CARRIE SOTO IS BACK.

Born in 1957 and trained from the age of two to be not only a good tennis player, but the best tennis player the world has ever seen, Carrie Soto’s earliest memories are of winning…and facing the wrath of others for it, from her playground schoolmates to fellow players and even the media. The problem with Carrie is not that she wins, it’s that she's unapologetic about it. She has dedicated every moment of her life to tennis, fine-tuning her game and adapting to other players’ approaches as easily as they lace up their shoes. As a result, she knows that she deserves every win. And the world hates her for it.

Despite the opinions of others, Carrie’s rise to stardom feels predestined. From training with her father, Javier “the Jaguar” Soto, a former player from Buenos Aires, to entering junior Wimbledon relatively unknown and ultimately becoming one of the top 10 players in the world at only 17, Carrie clinches big titles and championships like they are meant for her. But her rise to the top is not easy. Early on, she is criticized for never smiling at press conferences, gloating when she wins and doing exactly what the rules of the game demand of her: taking down her opponent at all costs.

"With themes of good sportsmanship (in every aspect of life), the cost of greatness and the power of perseverance, CARRIE SOTO IS BACK is an epic, compulsively readable and often heart-stopping look at female drive, ambition and vulnerability."

By 1976, Carrie is embroiled in what the media has eagerly dubbed a “Cold War” rivalry with Paulina Stepanova, ranked #3 to Carrie’s #4. But while her father has always encouraged her to be the best, Carrie’s ambition and fear of losing have skewed her perception of the game. She loves tennis, but she loves winning more, and the rivalry with Stepanova threatens to undo her…or make her the best player the world has ever seen. As the rivalry heats up, Carrie delivers some tone-deaf sound bites to her opponents (“Get better at tennis”) and fires her father as her coach. Carrie goes on to secure her first Wimbledon trophy, the nickname of “the Battle-Axe” and 20 Grand Slam singles titles --- a record in both women’s and men’s professional tennis --- but she loses far more.

When we meet Carrie, it is 1995 and the 37-year-old has been retired for six years following a disastrous final year in 1989. Her legacy remains untouched, but a new, scarily fast and almost supernaturally powerful player has started making waves. Seated at the US Open, Carrie and her father watch as Nicki Chan ties her record for most Grand Slam titles. Carrie decides that it is time to make a comeback and take hold of her legacy once and for all. She will be not only one of the oldest players in history, but one of the least loved and most embattled. She is also the most dedicated, and quite possibly the best there ever was.

As Carrie and her father begin a rigorous training routine that reads like completing a triathlon every day before even picking up a racket, the unstoppable duo find that while their understanding and love of the game are unchanged, Carrie’s mind and body are not, in good ways and bad. Carrie is slower and perhaps less powerful than she once was, but she’s also more experienced and a quicker study of her opponents. She’s angry at the world and protective of her status, but she’s also deathly, tragically afraid of losing in a way that her peers are not. Her ambition, once her driving force, has become oppressively choking, and it is unclear if her discipline is any match for her competitors or her own joyless pursuit of the win.

As Carrie trains for the match of a lifetime, she is forced to face her greatest opponent --- herself --- and reckon with the fact that while she has the skills and intuition, she may have lost the heart. A subplot love story between Carrie and another professional, Bowe Huntley, provides the tender emotional pull to ground her more brutal moments and flesh out this all-around powerful tale.

While CARRIE SOTO IS BACK is heavy on the tennis --- to Reid’s credit, I learned more about the sport in the book’s opening pages than I’ve ever grasped on my own --- it is grounded firmly and thoroughly in what she does best: a love story featuring a complicated, multilayered protagonist who has become her own worst enemy. Carrie makes amends with a former lover as part of her rise to the top, but this multifaceted love story is not only between man and woman, but between father and daughter, player and sport, and, most impactfully, a woman’s desire to win and the life she allows herself outside of the game.

Whether you’re a dedicated tennis fan or you barely know which side of the racket goes up, Reid’s use of the sport as a device is a pitch-perfect metaphor for the ways that we all become hyper-aware of our losses and forget to celebrate our wins, the joy of living through them and how each battle changes us. With themes of good sportsmanship (in every aspect of life), the cost of greatness and the power of perseverance, CARRIE SOTO IS BACK is an epic, compulsively readable and often heart-stopping look at female drive, ambition and vulnerability. Much like her titular character, Taylor Jenkins Reid is BACK.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 9, 2022

Carrie Soto Is Back
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0593158709
  • ISBN-13: 9780593158708