How much would you be willing to sacrifice for a chance at achieving your life's dream? Would you be willing to destroy someone you love in the process?
For most of us the dream of achieving Olympic glory goes no further than wishful thinking. For the characters in Chris Cleave's Gold, however, Olympic success is more than just a daydream; it's almost assured. Jack, Kate and Zoe are world-class bicyclists who've trained all their adult lives for a shot at winning gold in the biggest competition there is. Jack at the top of his field is hoping to keep his top spot on the UK men's team, Kate and Zoe are looking for one on the women's. At the same time, there's a heated personal competition, pitting one friend against the other, as both women jockey to win Jack's love. It goes without saying that in both love and world-class competitions, there can be only one winner.
Of course, not everyone dreams of Olympic gold. Whatever our dreams are whether it's to live in Paris as an artist, or to become a successful executive at a large company, our eyes always have to remain on the prize. But what if life happens in the meantime, if one day you woke up the mother of an unplanned child as Kate does in Gold? Does this derail all plans? Kate's story shows us it doesn't have to it shows that fate, determination and the generosity of others play a huge role in the successful outcomes of the best-laid plans.
Chris Cleave's emphasis on relationships is at the heart of the book. His ability to make us care about his characters is his great strength. We may not always like the choices the characters make, but Cleave at least lets us see their motivations. Of course this doesn't necessarily absolve them of guilt but we at least begin to understand their actions and see the characters for who they are flawed human beings.
Realizing we have limitations is a difficult lesson; almost without exception, it is painful and humbling. But it's something we're all forced to deal with a rite of passage. Some of us will have bigger decisions to make than others but in the end it all comes down to one thing: how we deal with our own, flawed humanity. Gold shows us that the choices we make reflect the quality of our character, no matter where life leads.
This review was originally published in July 2012, and has been updated for the April 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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