Raisin, Ross. “A Natural”, Random House, 2017.
Coming-of-Age in the World of Soccer
Tom at nineteen years old already feels that the bright future he dreamed of is slipping away. He was let go from a Premier League soccer academy and the only contract offer he receives is from a lower-level club. Away from home for the first time, Tom struggles on and off the field, hoping and anxious to avoid the cruel pranks and hazing rituals of his teammates. Then an encounter rocks the little stability he has and he is forced to reconcile his suppressed desires with his drive to succeed.
At the same time, the team’s popular captain, Chris, is in denial about the state of his marriage. Leah, his wife, has almost forgotten the dreams she once held for her career. Chris is transferred from club to club, and raising their first child practically on her own, she is lost, disillusioned with where life has taken her. We have three lost souls searching for some kind of balance in their lives as we are taken into the world of a professional soccer club and see the pressure, the loneliness, the threat of scandal, the fragility of the body, and the struggle of conforming to the person everybody else expects one to be.
“A Natural” is a multi-layered and subtle exploration of masculinity, desire and fear. The characters are real and the writing is excellent. There is so much that we do not know about the nature of masculinity and sexuality and Ross Raisin has a great deals to say about the topic. We get an intense look at conflicted male sexuality and repressed emotion here as we follow the lives of two lower-league soccer players. What we gain is a very natural look at professional British soccer.