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The Tennis Partner Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 18, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 211 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What is it about sports that makes some men wax as mystical as a Castanedan Yaqui? In the hands of writers such as David James Duncan and Norman Maclean, the simple, repetitive motions of baseball, fly-fishing, and golf have acquired almost numinous significance. In The Tennis Partner, Dr. Abraham Verghese takes on his own fascination with tennis and comes up with as good an explanation as any: "In the way we controlled the movement of a yellow ball in space, we were imposing order on a world that was fickle and capricious. Each ball that we put into play, for as long as it went back and forth between us, felt like a charm to be added to a necklace full of spells, talismans, and fetishes, which one day add up to an Aaron's rod, an Aladdin's lamp, a magic carpet. Each time we played, this feeling of restoring order, of mastery, was awakened."

For both Verghese and his tennis partner, a fourth-year medical student named David Smith, the game is a much-needed island of order in the midst of personal chaos. Both men are struggling to rebuild their lives, Verghese undergoing a painful divorce, Smith struggling with an intravenous cocaine addiction. For a brief, idyllic period, their friendship flourishes; Verghese mentors Smith in the examining room, while Smith, an Australian who competed briefly on the pro circuit, ends up Verghese's teacher on the court. But there are dark corners to David's personality, and under the mounting pressures of medical school and his increasingly complicated love life, these come to the fore. Even as he learns how to inhabit his new life, Verghese watches with horror as his friend relapses, dries out, then relapses again. The author of the powerful My Own Country, a chronicle of caring for AIDS patients in rural Tennessee, Verghese once again proves that the skills of a good doctor are strikingly similar to those of a good writer. Careful observation, compassion, restraint: these are the instruments Verghese uses to stunning effect in The Tennis Partner. A paean to the healing powers of tennis, this book is also a moving meditation on friendship, fatherhood, love, addiction, and the particular loneliness of physicians. --Mary Park

From Publishers Weekly

In his eloquent memoir, My Own Country, Verghese described a parallel story, that of a stranger (himself) and AIDS both becoming part of a rural Tennessee town. Once again, Verghese weaves his own story with that of a place and another person to come up with something moving and insightful. As he tries to cope with a new job on the faculty of Texas Tech School of Medicine, the move to El Paso and the breakdown of his marriage, he meets David, a medical student and former tennis pro. Tennis matches with David reawaken Verghese's passion for the game, and soon the two become regular partners. Their connection is complicated by their shifting roles: Verghese, David's teacher in the hospital wards, becomes his student on the tennis court. For Verghese, the matches offer an escape from loneliness; for David, a recovering drug addict, even more is at stake. Only on the court can they reach a state of grace: "our tennis partnership was special, different, sacred like a marriage." Ultimately, as David's life takes some disturbing turns, Verghese finds himself forced to choose between his role as friend and that of authority figure. While David's story provides the main narrative drive of the book, it's interwoven with Verghese's descriptions of his AIDS patients, his relationship with his sons and meditations on El Paso's distinctive landscape. It's a hard trick but Verghese combines all these elements into a cohesive whole, moving easily between moments of quiet reflection and anxious anticipation. If, as he writes, "to tell a life story [is] to engage in a form of seduction," then Verghese is a master of romance. Agent, Mary Evans. Author tour.-- to engage in a form of seduction," then Verghese is a master of romance. Agent, Mary Evans. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060174056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060174057
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
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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