Reviews - What do customers think about Finishing Skills?
A Good Novel Apr 25, 2007
I enjoyed reading this novel, about a young woman aspiring to be a professional boxer in pre-Katrina New Orleans. The main character, Heidi Whitehill, tells the story with an energetic voice and an keen eye for what's happening around her. We come to know the routine of the boxing gym, the sacrifice and preparation for the fight, the aftermath of the win or loss (Heidi's record is about evenly split), and the hustle for the next purse (which is never large enough). None of this holds the athlete back; she sticks to her mission in spite of familial disapproval (her roots are in New England) and less-than-comfortable living conditions. At one point, her car is stolen, and instead of replacing it, she switches to a bicycle. Still, the book ends on a note of hope, and we realize we were right to cheer for the boxer all along.
A Flurry of Solid Punches Jan 25, 2006
A friend of mine has the grace and toned musculature to be a jazz dancer or an ice skater and yet she prefers to devote her free time to a mixed martial art in which she grapples with an opponent until one of them runs out of energy or air and submits. I've always wondered why Amber would choose to risk her nose, arms and legs in a sport like that, but Sarah K. Inman's "Finishing Skills" lets us peek into the psyche of girls and women who are driven to compete in what were previously considered male domains.
Inman doesn't spare us any of the grit and sweat in a novel narrated by a college-educated boxer who prefers to test her mental and physical toughness in the gym and the ring rather than nestle into the business world. This freedom, we learn, demands that she risk failure in front of an audience and find odd jobs to pay the debts that can mount in even the most Spartan lifestyle. Some of the protagonist's wryest observations are about herself in the aftermath of a bout: "I've adjusted the rear-view mirror so that I could see my face, and it was truly a mess. The bleeding had stopped, but there was dried blood the color of orange soda staining the area between my nose and mouth. I looked like a careless kid who had come from a birthday party."
Later, drawing a parallel between her pet and good fighters, the boxer muses on the prowess of her cat in confrontation with a lizard: "She controlled the game the whole time, wounding the creature just enough so that the frightened thing could run from her, change colors as it made its way from tiled to hardwood floors, but never get away. She dictated the battle, ready to deliver the killing bite at any moment."
This book packs an extra wallop that Inman couldn't have anticipated because it is set in a New Orleans whose levees have yet to be breached. It describes a city that tourists rarely saw without straying far away from the bacchanalia of Bourbon Street.
Whenever I finish a fine book like this, I see that it makes its way into other hands instead of resting in my bookshelves. And, of course, from its first entrancing lines, I knew that "Finishing Skills" would be delivered onto Amber, who would then pass it to another grappler. During one of her matches in a steamy gym, I imagine, Amber will help a fallen opponent to her feet with one hand and offer her the book with the other.