Summary - When Paul Faustino of LA NACION flips on his tape recorder for an exclusive interview with El Gato — the phenomenal goalkeeper who single-handedly brought his team the World Cup — the seasoned reporter quickly learns that this will be no ordinary story. Instead, the legendary El Gato narrates a spellbinding tale that begins in the South American rainforest, where a ghostly but very real mentor, the Keeper, emerges to teach a poor, gawky boy the most thrilling secrets of the game. A seamless blend of magic realism and exhilarating soccer action, this evocative novel will haunt readers long after the story ends.
Review - I am not, and will not ever be, a soccer buff - but this book gave me an appreciation for the game that I definitely did not possess beforehand. Peet has written a novel that weaves mysticism and football into one package that takes surprising turns.
Alternating between current day and El Gato's childhood, the reader is taken on a journey from his knobbly kneed, talentless beginnings to his World Cup winning present. It's a vivid journey, one where every event is written in action packed detail that allows you to be in the moment. The characters are expertly depicted. El Gato is a character that evolves beautifully, like a caterpillar into a butterfly, under the tutelage of the mysterious Keeper. In the end soccer/football is a metaphor for life; embrace your vulnerability and fear, work your butt off and stay open to opportunities and good things will come.
If there was anything to quibble, it would be the scenes in present day. Some of the dialogue felt a little flat for me, almost like it was an untruth. At time it was easy to resent Faustino and his interference into the unravelling past of El Gato. Perhaps this was the goal of Peet, for the journalist to add a splash of reality to the magical tale of the boy and the shadow? As the readers we want to return to the jungle, to the Keeper, to El Gato's journey as soon as possible. It's a fantastic way to build tension within the story and within the reader.
It's a lovely read. Full of joy for soccer, the technicalities of the game and of life, the need for belief in yourself and the impossible and the joy in success. It's quite a surprising read that runs the gamut of emotions and turns - highly recommended.
Format: Paperback, 220 pages
Publisher: Walker Books