Read One, Skip One: Trophy Son and Woman No. 17

Trophy Son by Douglas BruntTrophy Son by Douglas Brunt
Fiction – Sports (
Released May 30, 2017)
288 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press)

Plot Summary: Thanks to his father’s rigorous and stifling coaching, tennis prodigy Anton Stratis has never known much outside of his sport…until he decides to take control of his life.

My Thoughts: Though this novel is set inside the grueling world of elite tennis and the professional tennis circuit, it’s really a unique spin on a coming of age story, an indictment of the world of overbearing sports parents (check out this article Brunt wrote for Time on the topic!), and a story about a fraught relationship between father and son. It’s about the psychological and emotional side of professional tennis and the experience of a young and ill-equipped man trying to figure out who he is in the midst of the bubble. Brunt nailed the feelings of a young athlete with an overbearing sports parent and the panicked feeling that goes along with losing your mental edge.

He shouldn’t have been here, but I knew why a guy like that stayed. Not the money. Not even the game. It was the lifestyle. And that’s the irony.  The sick truth of it, for any top player, for any child prodigy gone pro, for me and my relationship with tennis. We hung on to this thing that crippled our humanity because now that our humanity was crippled, this thing was all that we believed could make us happy anymore.

Brunt’s writing is superb…not in the overly literary sense, but in the entertaining, snarky, and “yes, that’s exactly how it is” sense. And, he writes about tennis like a true, longtime fan rather than like a writer who researched tennis for his book. I was rooting for Anton to come out of it all without completely dying inside and I even got a little teary at the end! With the elite sports setting of You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (my review) and the father/son dynamic of The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (my review), Trophy Son is a book you can fly through and is going on my Best of the Brain Candy list. 

Woman No 17 by Edan LepuckiWoman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Fiction (
Released May 9, 2017)
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Hogarth)

Plot Summary: When recently separated Lady Daniels hires S (a young artist) as a live-in nanny for her toddler son so she can write her memoir, S becomes more involved in events affecting Lady’s family (including her teenaged son) than she ever imagined.

My Thoughts: Woman No. 17 was not at all what I expected. It was described in the publisher’s blurb as “sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get the “sinister, sexy noir” vibe and the art piece struck me as ridiculous (though, I’m admittedly not an art person).

It’s hard for me to really pin down what this story is about…there are multiple storylines, which felt muddled to me. Is it about Lady navigating her newly separated status? Her friendship with S? Her relationship with her children, particularly her teenage son? S’s oddball art project? S’s relationship with her parents? I have no idea! The most compelling story for me was Lady’s relationship with her teenage son, Seth, and I think I would have been happier had the book focused just on that. Or, at least been described in the blurb as a story about a mother and her son rather than a story about “female friendship.” Seth himself is a multi-faceted, engaging character that (possibly inadvertently) carried the book in my view. Sadly, it wasn’t enough for an overall win.

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  1. I definitely agree that Woman No. 17 is a skip it book. It just never knew what it wanted to be about.

    It’s looking like I’m going to need to read a sports book here soon. Trophy Son or Beartown??

    Posted 5.30.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’d go Beartown if you’re not a sports person…there’s lots of other meaty stuff going on there.

      Posted 5.30.17 Reply
  2. Sarah R wrote:

    I agree with you so much on Woman No. 17! I am also not an art person, and I truly don’t get how anyone can do something super crazy and then call it “art.” There was definitely an “ick” factor too but nothing I’d call sexy noir.

    Posted 5.30.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Isn’t it ridiculous?! I just have so much trouble seeing the “art” in so much art.

      Posted 5.30.17 Reply
  3. Michelle wrote:

    Argh! I was giving Lepucki another chance with Woman No. 17 as I was not a fan of his first book. I guess I don’t need to rush to read it for a review any time soon.

    Posted 5.30.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’ve heard it has similar issues to California (which I didn’t read) if you had issues with that one.

      Posted 5.30.17 Reply
  4. Ah, man. I’m bummed about Woman No. 17. I’m thankful for your thoughts and the agreeing comments, though. I’m not going to rush to read this.

    Posted 5.30.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      You’re welcome! Always nice to be able to cross something across the list.

      Posted 5.30.17 Reply
  5. carrie wrote:

    the plot to Trophy Son reminds me a lot of Andre Agassi’s memoir, which i loved!

    Posted 6.3.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yep…very similar. I feel like the Trophy Son dad was based on Agassi’s Dad. Down to the Greek heritage.

      Posted 6.5.17 Reply

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