Fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid might recognize Carrie Soto from Malibu Rising, but this time she’s returned to tell her own story. Carrie Soto Is Back explores Carrie’s history as a tennis legend and her determination to come out of retirement to regain her “best in the game” status.
If you’ve loved Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other novels, Carrie Soto Is Back is an obvious next choice for your book club. Our Carrie Soto Is Back discussion guide will help your group explore themes like ageism, sexism, competition, grief, and more.
Be prepared for a vulnerable conversation using these Carrie Soto Is Back book club questions. In addition to the prompts, this discussion guide also features a synopsis and selected reviews, both of which can trigger more conversation. Once you’ve finished, we’ve also included 3 books like Carrie Soto Is Back for your next book club read.
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Carrie Soto is Back Synopsis
Carrie Soto is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid
Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.
But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.
At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.
In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet.
10 Carrie Soto Is Back Book Club Questions
These questions have been tailored to this book’s specific reading experience, but if you want more ideas, we also have an article with 101 generic book club questions.
- What was your impression of Carrie Soto? Do you think she deserved the bad press she received in the novel?
- Carrie was continuously called “old” even though she was only in her mid-late thirties. How did you see ageism play a role in the novel? In what ways do you think having a career with an expiration date led Carrie to be the way she is?
- Why do you think Carrie came out of retirement? Do you believe it was just her competitive nature? Or was something else at play?
- Carrie said, “Why do I have to be nice when most men aren’t?” If Carrie were a man, do you think she would have been treated the same way in the media?
- Carrie’s nickname throughout the novel is “The Battle Axe.” Do you think this is a fair nickname? How did her portrayal in the media affect who she was?
- Javier says to Bowe, “Good is the enemy of great.” What do you think he meant by this? How did this attitude shape Carrie?
- Toward the end of the novel, a male tennis player makes light of Carrie’s accomplishments because women’s tournaments are three sets, while men’s tournaments are five sets. Do you see this attitude reflected in the sports world today? In what ways are other competitive sports uneven between the genders?
- We don’t fully meet Nicki Chan until the last quarter of the novel. Did your opinion of her change after she had that drink with Carrie?
- In what ways are Carrie Soto and Nicki Chan similar? How are they different?
- After Carrie loses to Nicki, she says, “I am no longer the greatest tennis player in the world. For the first time in my life, I can be… something else.” How did losing set Carrie free? How does the end of her career portray the theme of grief?
- BONUS QUESTION: If you’ve read the other big three novels from Taylor Jenkins Reid, can you pinpoint how all the novels are connected?
(Hint: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones and the Six, Malibu Rising, and Carrie Soto Is Back all take place in the same universe!)
Selected Reviews for Carrie Soto Is Back
“I’m always drawn towards stories about overcoming adversity at great odds and achieving the impossible through sheer determination and hard work. So is it any surprise that this story totally grabbed ahold of me and refused to let go?… What a story! It’s exciting and uplifting, and inspirational, but it never loses sight of its heart. In fact, that is a hallmark of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s recent books.”
“Carrie Soto is a mess. Other reviews praise her for being a ‘strong female character’ and how it’s so great that she’s unapologetic. I love strong women in fiction, and I enjoy unlikable characters, but Carrie is neither strong nor is she really a character. I can’t even say I hate her because she never seemed to exist as a person in my mind.”
“This book has left me with conflicted feelings. While Carrie Soto is one of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s most memorable characters, I just don’t think this novel is her strongest work. Still, a lot to appreciate though, even if she didn’t serve up an ace […] I binge read this book, so I did like it, but it didn’t leave me with an emotional impact like some of the author’s other books.”
“I’ll admit it, tennis doesn’t really thrill me… this, however, while it’s about tennis (and a lot of tennis, I might add), it’s also about more than that. It’s about a father and daughter and their relationship. It’s about learning how to deal with failure and defeat, even if you’re dragged kicking and screaming to deal with it. It’s about determination and, yes, even obsession to reach your own goals, even to the detriment of everything else… A worthwhile read.”
3 Books like Carrie Soto Is Back
Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes
Evvie Drake doesn’t really leave her house since her husband died. And Dean Tenney is a former MLB pitcher dealing with an athlete’s worse nightmare.
The two form an unlikely friendship when Dean moves into the apartment at the back of Evvie’s suddenly empty house. The only rules are that Dean doesn’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie doesn’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. But rules are meant to be broken.
If you were drawn to the grief Carrie felt for not only her father but also her career; you’ll love Evvie Drake Start Over.
Beartown, Fredrick Backman
The forest is slowly consuming the tiny town of Beartown. The only thing that seems to give the townspeople hope is the old ice rink and a junior ice hockey team that’s on their way to the national semi-finals. The pressure of the entire town looking to these young boys proves to be too much, leading to an act of violence that has repercussions for every single member of Beartown.
Carrie had a lot on her shoulders, but that’s nothing compared to the boys in Beartown.
The Comeback, Ella Berman
Just like Carrie Soto, Grace Turner was at the height of her career. But when she was just one movie away from solidifying herself as a Hollywood A-list, she disappeared. One year later, Grace is back and determined to reclaim everything that’s been taken from her.
If you were rooting for the underdog in Carrie Soto Is Back, you’ll love The Comeback.
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