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Publisher's Summary

From one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, an exquisitely crafted coming-of-age novel set in the high-stakes world of English soccer - for fans of Nick Hornby and The Art of Fielding.

After his unceremonious release from a Premier League academy at 19, Tom feels his bright future slipping away. The only contract offer he receives is from a lower-level club. Away from home for the first time, Tom struggles on and off the field, anxious to avoid the cruel pranks and hazing rituals of his teammates. Then a taboo encounter upends what little stability he has, forcing Tom to reconcile his suppressed desires with his drive to succeed.

Meanwhile, the team's popular captain, Chris, is in denial about the state of his marriage. His wife, Leah, has almost forgotten the dreams she once held for her career, as her husband is transferred from club to club.

A Natural delves into the heart of a professional soccer club: the pressure, the loneliness, the threat of scandal, the fragility of the body, and the struggle of conforming to the person everybody else expects you to be.

©2017 Ross Raisin (P)2017 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • STAMFORD, CT, United States
  • 12-17-17

This Sporting Life

“A Natural” offers a gritty, realistic view of second-tier soccer, focusing on a small-town professional team and the rivalries of its players. The focus is on two would-be stars. Chris Easter’s career is nearing its end, along with his marriage to Leah. Tom Pearman’s career is just beginning, unevenly, and his romantic life is difficult. He’s closeted, falling for the club’s groundskeeper and loathing himself for it.

The novel’s strengths are in its characters. Peripheral characters are well drawn, like the Davies, in whose home Tom lives when he first joins the team and who are the parents of the groundskeeper, and Bobby, an emerging soccer star with a money problem. The soccer matches are well done, and the locker room scenes capture well the mix of practical joking, mutual support and petty resentments among the players.

The narrator was a bit quirky, but overall I enjoyed his reading. This was a well-written book. Ross Raisin is a thoughtful writer who gets the psychology of competitive athletes.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Doesn't rise above "Tortured Closeted Gay" Cliche

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would just to be able to discuss the ending with someone. But I wouldn't go around telling everyone to read it.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

It was beautifully written. Truly. The least interesting was the guy who turns out to be the antagonist. total cliche.

Was A Natural worth the listening time?

As you listen it gets better and better. But it falls into some stereotypes about gay life typically depicted in literature and TV. For me I could totally tell it was written by a straight guy. I guess I was hoping to get past the tragic, tortured, closeted experience. But this book doesn't do that. It might be more for straight folks who want to understand the closeted experience. It isn't really for the gay man looking for insight into the gay experience. And that too me is important because we are not fully represented in literature, especially in contemporary literature. And there is a strain of homophobia that runs through the book that I'm dying to talk with someone about. It might not be homophobia, i'm not sure. But no one I know has read the book...

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Very Poor Narration

Because the NY Time Book Review gave this novel a positive review, I'm giving it 3 Stars, but I couldn't get even half way through due to the unlistenable narration. There was little effort to differentiate characters voices and the reader's flat, repetitive style of reading made it impossible for me to keep track of the storyline. I have resorted to reading the Kindle version.