Sat, Nov 23, 2013

: Solo: A Memoir of Hope

Author: Hope Solo (and Ann Killan)

I’m not usually much into biographies, so I was surprised at how much this one captivated me. I read it within a 24-hour period. I couldn’t put it down.

I’m a huge soccer fan and I love Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the U.S. Women’s National Team. I’ve followed her career but didn’t know much about her past. This book is an incredibly intimate look at her trouble life.

Hope’s always been outspoken and frank, and this book is no different. She unflinchingly talks about her father’s criminal life and bizarre behavior, her dysfunctional family life, her own sometimes inappropriate lifestyle, the 2007 World Cup controversy where she was suddenly benched before the big semi-final with Brazil — a game the USA lost horribly — and where her critical post-match comments ostracized her from her teammates who felt betrayed, as well as the tremendous triumphs of winning Gold medals in the Olympics and World Cup.

The story of Hope’s childhood and family I found very moving. The love-hate relationship she had with her father is heart-breaking. On the one hand, he could be a great dad at times, but other times he betrayed Hope’s mother, was incredibly unreliable, and committed crimes. One of my favorite scenes is a tiny one: Hope writing about how ashamed she was when she saw her father stealing coins from Hope’s friend’s car when given a ride (he was homeless at the time). So sad and tragic.

Yet despite everything, Hope managed to keep her family somewhat together, and she and her father eventually had a good relationship — right before he suddenly died. I’d heard bits and pieces of that story in the media but hadn’t realized what a profound story it was: Hope had sought a relationship with her missing dad her whole life and just as she finally got it and he was getting his own life together, he’s taken away. Worse, that happened just before a major tournament where Hope needed to be focused.

Another part I really liked about this book was learning about all the behind-the-scenes of the women’s soccer team. I had known there was some bad blood, but hadn’t realized just how bad it was (or who was on which side). While Hope clearly presents her own views of the situations, she does so in a way that doesn’t feel phony as though she’s attempting to rewrite history to paint herself in a more favorable light. She seems willing to admit when she’s wrong and when she makes mistakes (goalkeepers have to be good at that) and her perspective feels genuine. That’s impressive.

It was also fun reliving the highs and lows of various tournaments. I had not realized just how badly Hope was injured prior to the 2011 World Cup and the amount of physical therapy and medical treatments she had to undergo just to play.

There are some negative things you learn about her in the book: it’s easy to put our athletes up on a pedestal (especially clean-cut female athletes) and think of them as angels, so it can be troubling having that view shattered. For example, most of the sounds bites we hear are censored (or at least carefully selected), so it can be a shock to see that Hope — and others - use a lot more profanity than is necessary.

Still, that’s a core theme of the book: Hope is basically giving a big middle finger to whoever wants to judge her. While she seems to accept the burden of being an idol, she doesn’t want the pressure of living up to that impossible standard to break or change her.

Ultimately, this is a fantastic book. It’s incredibly well-written and almost disturbingly honest. It’s definitely worth the read if you’re into soccer or the women’s national team. I came away with a much deeper understanding and a deeper appreciation of Solo as an athlete, and as a person.

Topic: [/book]