Filed in the following archives
A figure skating prodigy, sixteen-year old Alivopro Doyle is one of a few “hopefuls” racing against nature’s clock to try and jump and spin their way into the Olympics. But when a disastrous fall fractures two vertebrae, leaving Ali addicted to painkillers and ultimately institutionalized, it’s not just her dreams of glory that get torn asunder, but the very fabric that holds her fragile family together.
Congratulations to Tracy O'Neill, whose novel, The Hopeful, had me in a twist from page one. Tracy is relentlessly intelligent and also exquisitely adept at dramatizing what it means to be relentless. In this novel relentlessness isn't so much a quality as it is an identity that eclipses whatever else one might purport to be as an adopted girl who has a dream. You could say this novel is about what it takes to be an olympic skater, and there's plenty of anthropological insight into just what kind of personality the sport attracts, but then you'd be missing the novel's much more complicated agenda to re-think what constitutes identity. You could say that this novel is about addiction, but then you'd be missing the novel's treatment of addiction as just a symptom of what happens when our sense of self doesn't square with the world's disregard for our sense of anything. The Hopeful is fierce, and discomfiting, and alarming, but also exceedingly generous for the way it lavishes attention on what's hard and dark and sharp about our needs as they cut through whatever stands in their way. Tracy is the real deal and a major, major talent. My one word of advice and caution for you all: Beware of what she writes next. –Fiona Maazel