The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese – Review

When Abraham Verghese, a physician whose marriage is unraveling, relocates to El Paso, Texas, he hopes to make a fresh start as a staff member at the county hospital. There he meets David Smith, a medical student recovering from drug addition, and the two men begin a tennis ritual that allows them to shed their inhibitions and find security in the sport they love and with each other. This friendship between doctor and intern grows increasingly rich and complex, more intimate than two men usually allow. And just when it seems nothing more can go wrong, the dark beast from David’s past emerges once again. As David spirals out of control, almost everything Verghese has come to trust and believe in is threatened. Compassionate and moving, The Tennis Partner is a unforgettable, illuminating story of how men live, and how they survive.

~Synopsis from Goodreads

Cutting for Stone was a masterpiece by Abraham Verghese that I just had to know what other kind of stories can he write and that is how I ended up picking ‘The Tennis Partner’.  I knew two things about the book. First it was a non-fiction and secondly it was very likely that I will be disappointed; which happens very often when you pick up a book with a lot of expectations.

I have mixed feelings about this book fulfilling my expectations. First of all this is a non-fiction and second reason is that this book is about a real life person whose life was closely intertwined with the author’s life for a short period. So the narration is one-dimensional which may make the reader unaware of other aspects of the story.

When you start reading this book, Dr Abraham narrates his encounter with the intern David and how David was once a professional tennis player before turning to medicine, you start wondering if this book is all  about Dr’s obsession with tennis and his adoration for a person who can do better than him in tennis…and yes, there was a lot of tennis jargon which I decided to skip…But later he slowly reveals the reason for the title of the book because the rest of the book is truly dedicated to David.

This book is a journey of revelation  as the doctor learns lots of new things about David which mostly left him speechless. Somehow Dr wants to consider David as someone far above him especially considering his mastery over tennis, but he painfully realizes that David is nothing like what he thought him to be…David is a recovering drug addict who can have a relapse any time…This true makes a lot of impact on Abraham and the reader also feels the same.

‘The Tennis Partner’ is a book to be read with an open mind though you may wonder how open the author himself was, but then you also realize that it takes a lot of courage from the author to reveal his thoughts and actions and leave them open for public scrutiny in a sensitive situation like this.

Abraham Verghese has clearly made his point across to his readers that no doctor is a superior human being and they may have their own flaws which may be disguised under their white coats. I am not sure what was his exact motive for writing this book other than a memoir about a person who played a significant part during a short period of his life.

Recommended for people who can take some tennis as well as medical jargon.

Rating: 4/5
Publisher: Harper Perennial
First Release: 1998
Source: Justbooks Library

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