THE TENNIS PARTNER, Adam Verghese

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Someone left this memoir in my Little Free Library and I snatched it up because the title included the word ‘tennis’. I like tennis. I play, I watch, I read about it.

This compassionate and thoughtful book is not about tennis. It’s about a friendship between two men: Adam Verghese, a physician whose marriage has fallen apart, and David Smith, a medical student recovering from cocaine addiction.

The two men practice medicine and play tennis. In a clinical setting, Verghese mentors Smith. On the court, Smith, a former pro who didn’t last long on the circuit, mentors Verghese.

There are a lot of fascinating scenes in the hospital when the docs are trying to diagnose patients who present with complex symptoms. There are fascinating scenes on the court about tennis strategy and tactics. These two narrative threads, and the deepening relationship between the two men, are neatly stitched together.

I rarely discover such introspective, emotional writing by a man about his friendship with an insight into another man. It was a pleasure.

What this memoir doesn’t have is suspense. There are no real surprises. There can’t be, not when the cover of the book carries this quote from a review that appeared in the Boston Globe: “Heartbreaking . . . indelible and haunting, an elegy to friendship found, and an ode to a good friend lost.” Smith is an addict. He relapses multiple times. Guess what happens?

Knowing, or at least sensing, the outcome, puts a slight drag on the narrative. Maybe I’m just so used to reading novels, the best of which force you to navigate toward the end with very little light. Still, this is a powerful book.

4/5 stars.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.

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