Published May 2017 by St. Martin’s Press
Private lessons. Professional coaches. Specialized camps for sports, math, music, and other fields. Today’s children are pushed to achieve excellence—or else. Trophy Son, tells the story of a tennis prodigy, from young childhood to the finals of the US Open, Wimbledon, and other tournaments around the world.
Growing up in the wealthy suburbs of Philadelphia, Anton Stratis is groomed to be one thing only: the #1 tennis player in the world. Trained relentlessly by his obsessive father, a former athlete who plans every minute of his son’s life, Anton both aspires to greatness and resents its all-consuming demands. Lonely and isolated—removed from school and socialization to focus on tennis—Anton explodes from nowhere onto the professional scene and soon becomes one of the top-ranked players in the world, with a coach, a trainer, and an entourage.
But as Anton struggles to find a balance between stardom and family, he begins to make compromises—first with himself, then with his health, and finally with the rules of tennis, a mix that will threaten to destroy everything he has worked for.
Trophy Son offers an inside look at the dangers of extraordinary pressure to achieve, whether in sports or any field, through the eyes of a young man defying his parents’ ambitions as he seeks a life of his own.
This book came along at the perfect time as I wanted and needed a break from the mystery/thriller genre after being so disappointed in 3 of my recent reads. To say I’m surprised I liked this as much as I did would be an understatement because I actually really loved this book! I read it in 2 sittings only because I read late into the night when I started it and finally had to go to sleep. I think some people may read the blurb and disregard this book because they don’t like tennis or sports etc. but it’s really about so much more than that although tennis does play prominently in the storyline.
At its core this is a very unique coming of age story told from the first person perspective of Anton who’s narrating the story from some point in the future. I thought this was a brilliant narrative technique that enables the reader to get to know Anton through many ages of his life but with the wisdom of his older self highlighting the way. This narrative structure can be tricky to pull off but Anton was such a likable character who I immediately connected with…I mean how could you not feel for a little nine year old kid who’s being made to spend HOURS in the ninety degree heat doing tennis drill after tennis drill with his dad yelling at and berating him?? As a parent, I felt such a range of emotions for Anton who was missing out on being a kid; he had no friends, his social skills were lacking, and his loneliness was so deep and ingrained it really broke my heart. And don’t get me started on my feelings about his dad and mom. I have nothing nice to say about their characters. Anton’s saving grace in his family was his brother Panos who, despite being a secondary character, was very multidimensional and my second favorite character after Anton. As you can see, the author did a wonderful job creating characters I became thoroughly invested in and a storyline I just couldn’t stop reading until I found out how it all turned out for Anton. Needless to say, I was rooting for him to defy his father, find his own way in the world and possibly even experience a sliver of happiness.
A major reason I think this book will resonate with so many people is because we’re seeing this specialization of youth sports and extreme focus on achieving excellence in sports and academics with young children play out everywhere in our society these days. Tiger Wood’s story is just one recent example. I’ve seen it firsthand in my own community time and time again, and quite frankly it’s sad.
In the end, you don’t have to love tennis to enjoy this book although I really like the game – playing and watching – so I found the tennis matches (as well as the whole story) to be riveting. Douglas Brunt writes in a literary way that’s concise and well-paced, yet still manages to be compelling and almost conversational in its tone…can you tell this is 5 star read for me?! If you’re in the mood for something a little different I think Trophy Son may be just what you’re looking for.
Many thanks to Meriah Murphy at St. Martin’s Press for inviting me to read this via Netgalley. I’m happy to provide an honest review