Goodreads Review: Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo

Four Star review, originally posted here on August 29, 2014.

This book was surprising. I was surprised at myself for even taking an interest in this book (I can’t remember where this interest first manifested, but my best guess is that it came from seeing her talk about her father on Dancing With the Stars). I was surprised to find the other Goodreads reviews favorable enough that I decided it was worth actually reading. I was surprised that it was so well-written. And I was surprised when I realized halfway through the book that I was completely prepared to rate it an impressive five stars.

In the end I went with 4 stars, though I feel that if Solo did a re-write a few years from now about the same time period, it would jump back up to five stars. For the first two-thirds or so of the book, Solo’s story is seriously gripping. Her description of her childhood is so fascinating that it could stand on its own as a remarkable memoir even if it had no ties to an eventual world-famous athlete. I just read Angela’s Ashes, and while Solo lacks McCourt’s poetic prose, her storytelling and insight was just as remarkable.

The problem is that Solo is writing about her life as it is happening, and as such, she is still too close to some events to write about them with clarity. She had a tumultuous relationship with her stepfather, Glenn, but as an adult looking back she can see why she treated him like crap, why he acted the way that he did, and can admit that she was in the wrong. With time came clarity.

But the last third or so of the book refers to events which are still fresh and to relationships that are still forming, and so for those sections Solo is being honest about her current emotions, but still does not know how these events will affect her down the road, or how to clearly explain them to outsiders. I still found value in seeing the world through her eyes when she is so close and feelings are so raw, but as a work of serious nonfiction (as opposed to a reactionary blog or journal entry), this proximity injures her overall narrative. I cringed every time Solo talked about Adrian, the supposed love of her life, because, with her being famous and me reading the book 2 years after publication, I knew that two months after she went to presses she married somebody else who was never even mentioned in the book. She has an on-again, off-again thing going on with Adrian for years, which is obvious for anyone reading from the outside, but it was painful to listen to Hope give this guy so much attention in the book knowing full-well that she was writing from the middle of an on-again period. Some time and reflection probably would have given Solo the chance to reflect and give a more honest account of Adrian, and to choose more appropriately just how much weight to assign to him.

Adrian is just one example. Soccer is another. It feels silly suggesting that there is too much soccer in a soccer-player’s book, but… There’s just too much soccer in this soccer player’s book. I am of course not suggesting that there shouldn’t be soccer, or that it shouldn’t be a major focus, but at points we went into boring details about specific games that I’m sure seemed really major to Solo as she was writing them since they are more recent and thus prominently featured in her mind, but that aren’t exactly fascinating to readers, regardless of how into the sport we may be. Hope’s story is so fascinating, and her insights and reactions so robust, that play-by-plays seemed to just detract overall. It was much more interesting to read how Solo felt about certain games than to hear which of her teammates scores off of how many headers (we have game footage for that).

Crap, this got too long. OVERALL REVIEW: You should read it because it is, above all else, honest and surprisingly full of substance.

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