Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review: The Swinger

Rusty takes a break from NASCAR to look at Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck's new novel, The Swinger.


If you don't pick up on it reading the dust jacket or reviews like this one, you will just a few pages into the book. This is Tiger Woods' story. The Swinger, a novel by Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck is a work of fiction, though any sports fan will quickly see the parallels between the book and reality.

The story is told from the vantage point of down-on-his-luck sports writer, Josh Dutra. Dutra makes the move of his career when he joins the team of super star golfer, Herbert "Tree" Tremont Jr. Tree has carved out a nearly picture perfect existence at the top of the U.S. golf game, including a hot trophy wife, perfect kids, and more money and endorsements than Donald Trump. From the inside, Dutra watches Tree's life spiral out of control when his perfectly manipulated public image is shattered.

Even though this book was as nearly predictable as a children's comedy, it kept me turning the pages, and quickly. Bamberger and Shipnuck have crafted an inside view into the modern world of sports media and golf. Their easy writing style and goofy humor - Tree's home is called Tree House - make this an easy-to-read page turner. The story balances between real life and complete fabrication seamlessly. Tree's little marital fracas involving a fire poker was lifted right from the headlines. How he ends up dealing with his ultimate downfall is complete fiction, though, and in my opinion the best part of the book.

SPOILER ALERT

After he hits complete rock bottom and has been outed as a promiscuous pill popping sex freak, Tree takes his writer friend to rehab and undergoes a transformation never before seen in real life. Throughout the book, the authors keep you turning the pages looking for the next shoe to drop or the next scandal to unfold. At the end, though, they tell us a story of how life could and should be. It becomes a story of forgiveness and redemption. You turn the pages with a smile on your face and hope in your heart.

Don't get me wrong, the book doesn't have a fairy tale ending with Tree and Dutra marching off into the sunset. His pain and suffering remains real. His redemption is stronger though, and the authors make that clear as they weave the final threads of this great story.

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