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on October 30, 1999
I just finished a cathartic 15 minute shed of tears. The Tennis Partner took over my life for nearly two full days. I was unable to put it down and afraid to read on at the same time. I was moved by the friendship that blossomed from one main commonality, a love for the game. Dr. Verghese's observations about life, his analogies between tennis and medicine spoke volumes to me. I am neither a tennis player nor a physician, but as a compassionate and feeling person I related to the story and I have been changed. It took tremendous courage for Dr. Verghese to write David's story and to express how it made him feel as a physician, a man, a tennis player, a father and most of all as a friend. As an Arizonan I have a love and a deep respect for the desert. This book may help others to appreciate and fear the desert for its natural beauty and its well-kept secrets. If for no other reason, read the book to grow and challenge yourself. Dr. Verghese's writing style is thoughtful and his sentences are astutely and carefully crafted to say more than you can imagine. You must read every word to hear the whole story. You will be grateful.
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on October 11, 2000
Having been personally trained by Dr. Verghese, I can say that his talent is truly remarkable. It is rather interesting how he describes all the events and scenes of El Paso so vividly and true, that when you are actually at the many locations in the book, one can recall and relay the exact details he describes in The Tennis Partner. He is very poetic, with an incredibly eloquent touch of deepness in his writing. With his worldly experiences as well as his vast knowledge of medicine, Dr. Verghese truly treats his patients with 'culture and sensitivity.' Some may say that I am biased for having known him, but if you could meet him and actually be trained by him, you would be able to see his incredible compassion for his patients, his students, medicine, writing, and the world itself. Very admirable.
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on November 29, 1999
This book moved me as few others have, in part because of the story itself, but mostly by the beautiful, honest and unadorned way it is written. Abraham Verghese opens his lonely soul without pretense or fanfare: unusual for a man, rarer still for a physician. I have worked with physicians and am close to one. Many of the emotions Verghese describes as he cares for his patients I long suspected physicians experienced, but was never certain. Physicians don't wax poetically to non-physicians over the feeling of a pulse or the percussion of an abdomen, fearful it might diminish them. They certainly don't expose their vulnerability or need for friendship as plainly as Verghese does. Despite their skills and accomplishments, both Verghese and Smith remain very much affected by their childhoods and by their insecurities. They are lost souls. Ultimately, Verghese finds his way back while David is lost forever. It is Verghese's sensitive description of this story that captures both the forlorn and the passionate sides to these two men, forever etching them into my own soul. This is Verghese's true gift to his reader.
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on November 22, 1998
Abraham Verghese's second book, "The Tennis Partner," is far different from his first, "My Own Country," in which he chronicles his work in a rural area in Tennessee as the physician in a "one doctor town." An inordinate number of AIDS cases begin to come his way and he tells the story of his learning quickly how to deal with this challenging disease in an area with extremely limited resources. (An outstanding read available through Amazon.)"The Tennis Partner" begins with Verghese's arrival in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife and two sons where has taken a new position as a Professor of Medicine in a teaching hospital, a prestigious advance in his medical career. Soon into the story, we learn that Verghese finds himself fairly humanly bankrupt as he finally realizes the reality that his marriage is in ruins and now ending due to his own neglect of his wife in the amount of attention he has given to his career. He learns that he is extremely rootless: a foreign born physician, in a new town, with no friendships or personal support systems. Verghese, after assisting his wife establish a new home and a create a sense of stability for his sons, begins to look for an apartment near his wife's home so that he can be near his sons and complete the actual separation from his wife that they have been essentially living for quite some time by this point. Verghese begins a friendship with David, an intern in his final year (actually, we later learn, that David is repeating his internship, due to drug addition having interrupted his earlier, nearly completed internship.) There is a similarity to Verghese's rootless and David's own. The intern, a bit older than the typical medical school following a fairly successful run on the professional tennis circuit. The heart of the story is the newly developing friendship between the two men, the mutually rewarding relationship they ultimately establish in co-mentoring each other; Verghese mentoring his intern in medicine and David mentoring Abraham in improving his tennis game. While sounding simplistic, as one reader, I enjoyed observing the somewhat complex relationship that is rife with the the awkwardness and clumsiness of two heterosexual men essentially creating a non-sexual love and friendship that is a fundamental need that all men have. Verghese's book very accurately mirrors the reality of men needing other men in their lives for significant friendships and characterizes well, the complexity of "male bonding."The story doesn't have a particularly happy ending, yet, it is a true story. It is an excellent documentation of the need for, the high degrees of complexity, the platonic love men often develop for one another, the degrees of petty rivalry and subtle competition that often exist in men's friendships and the ultimate limitations of any friendship - male or female.The "tennis element" adds even more to the story for the person who is a tennis fan but the tennis games and the medical mentoring the two men exchange are, in many ways, metaphors of the manner in which male friendships develop and volley from one side to the other, each holding high expectations of the other, each contributing something to the other, yet careful not to overwhelm the other -- often with one winning more than the other as is the case in this story in both tennis and medicine. Verghese is clearly an excellent physician who takes great interest in his patients and uses his keen personal intuition as one of his best diagnostic tools. Yet, Verghese's sensitivity, attentiveness and keen intuition seems to start and stop at the hospital doors as he shows himself to be quite human in his personal inadequacy, stilted personal development and in his normal human incompleteness. David is equally complex, engaging at the same time he is able be maintain his clear boundaries and keep a certain distance. An excellent and gripping story. Highly recommended!
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on January 29, 2000
As a fan of Dr. Verghese's "My Own Country", I was intrigued by this topic, obviously a departure and a deeply personal memoir, when I first decided to buy "The Tennis Partner". I think enjoyment of this book requires the ability to realize that he is searching for answers regarding the addiction of his friend, a situation which boggles the mind of someone who has not struggled with the same problem. I admire his research into the world of drug addiction and the beauty of his attempts to explain his insights into David's world, actually into David's mind. There didn't seem to be a resolution for his search to understand David, but it seems this book was Dr. Verghese's method of paying tribute to his friend and probably therapeutic way to deal with his loss. The tennis descriptions were an interesting way to tell this story. I like the way he showed the tennis partnership interwoven with getting to know and understand David. To me, Dr. Verghese seemed at a loss to come to grips with what could be happening inside David to cause such destruction in a life of promise. Dr. Verghese even seemed to be unfamiliar with the whole addiction and recovery process, as he was sucked into the life of a dependent so far as to be an enabler of sorts. I admire him for putting his thoughts and experiences together, and exploring his own attitude toward drug abuse.
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on February 12, 1999
Abraham Verghese is a physician, a deeply inquisitive student of human nature, and a dark, poetic writer. This book reminds me of another of my favorites, Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It," with tennis instead of fishing.
In the years that have elapsed since "My Own Country," Verghese's marriage has collapsed, and he has moved to a teaching hospital in Texas. One of his students is a young man named David Smith, who had briefly played pro tennis before beginning medical school. Verghese, an avid tennis player, hesitantly asks if they might play together.
Smith, like the younger brother in "A River Runs Through It," is charming, lovable, smart, and supremely gifted in his chosen sport; on the tennis court, he seems to be transformed into a different, and better, person. But his gifts aren't enough to save his life; he's an intravenous drug abuser, in and out of recovery and rehab. When the two men play tennis together, their support for each other, and their anger and frustrations, are all played out on the tennis court.
As in "My Own Country," Verghese reveals his fascination with people from all walks of life. His emotional inquisitiveness leads him to take risks, as when he accepts a junkie's offer of a tour of "his" world. Yet for all his curiosity and his desire to learn to see the world through the eyes of others, Verghese was unable to save his friend, and he was even unable to save his own marriage. Sadly, he wonders if his marriage might have survived if he had invested himself in it as deeply as he invested himself in the minutiae of tennis.
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on June 4, 2009
I was one of many individuals to have the privilege of knowing Dr. Verghese and David Smith through my association with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso. The story relating to David's tragic life and death hit me like it happened only yesterday. David was a person that everyone liked. He had a promising career as a physician who wanted to specialize in Emergency Medicine. Unfortunately, his drug addiction brought about his tragic end. This book should be read by anyone that has or is suffering from a drug addiction. From Dr. Verghese's story, one will be drawn into the promise and the darkness that overtook a young man before he could visualize and follow his dream.
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VINE VOICEon July 21, 2001
This is the story of ending relationships, and begining new ones. Verghese is embroiled in the breakup of his marriage, as he meets a student who turns out to be his tennis partner. This is a heartbreaking story in so many ways. The dissolvment of the marriage, creating a new life, and the pain friendships can sometime cause. His friend is a recoving drug addict that doesn't have the smoothest path to recovery.
Verghese's writting style is once again beautiful. Painfully honest revealing things about himself that so few of us are willing to do. You feel that you are in a long coversation with him as you read this book. He sets up chapters in this book with scenes in tennis matches and various quotes. These introductions serve as a setup for his narration, preparing you for the story that is about to unfold. Yet it is peppered with wonderful passages of humor.
Many feel this a wonderful book describing the friendship of two men. I think it fits a category much broader than that. All people have had friendships that have undergone the good times as well as the pain, maybe it is refreshing to hear a man speak to openly and honestly about his friendship with another man. I highly recommend this book. Endings, beginings, it is what life is all about. It is very refreshing to have someone be so open with their life. A definate must read!
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on March 16, 2001
For any student of the game of tennis who is madly in love with the game and its ability to completely take over your life, 'The Tennis Partner' will ring true in many ways. Verghese understands the passion behind the game and how it can draw two men together despite the difficulties in their relationship. Written with a lucid prose, the book sometimes feels a bit raw in its emotion, but you can hardly fault the author for baring his soul about his love for the game of tennis and his desire to share it with his friend, despite his friend's struggle with drug addiction. The book also treads fragile ground by venturing forth into intense relationships between heterosexual men. The book is risky in its integrity as well as its intensity in the author's descriptions of his emotions for his tennis partner. But, best of all, he desribes beautifully what many of us love so much - the game of tennis.
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on January 11, 1999
Do not fear reading The Tennis Partner if you are not a fan of tennis. Dr. Verghese uses his and David's love of the sport as a way to illustrate how some things in life are simple on the surface, yet incredibly involved once you peer beneath it. The friends' tennis meetings are originally scheduled to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors, yet soon turn in to the tie that binds the two men as well as an outlet for their innermost secrets. Tennis is also a game of seemingly simple bodily motions, yet slight changes in those movements can yield tremendous gains or losses. For Verghese, this is a metaphor for life itself. David is at first appearance everything that Verghese wishes he was - young, attractive, a former tennis pro. Yet once the two cement their relationship with tennis and get together outside their profession, David's problems become apparent, and somewhat mysterious to the author.
Verghese's medical background serves a similar purpose. The somewhat detailed accounts of his career serve to illustrate his gifts for intuiting the things that destroy people's bodies. And through his gifts, he is able to look past David's emotional facade and find that his friend is troubled. And although medical diagnoses come as second nature for Verghese, he is unable or afraid to act when he sees David destroyed by his own inner demons.
The Tennis Partner is a beautifullly crafted story of a painful, yet enriching friendship and loss. I enjoyed it so much I immediately went out and bought a copy of Verghese's first book. I very highly recommend that anyone read this incredible book.
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