When it comes to talking about motherhood, saying that it’s ‘challenging’ is a cliché. It’s a common truth. Another cliché, that’s a common truth? That in order to build your career – especially if you’re a woman in a male-dominated environment – you have to be better than the best. To get to the top, you can’t be better than the talent that’s already there, you have to be so remarkable, so memorable, that you’re peerless. Even then, it might not work for you.
Emily Adrian’s The Second Season deals with these two core principles in a way I haven’t seen written down before. The novel – our Book Club’s pick of the month for August 2021 – features Ruth Devon, a sports broadcaster who’s looking to break into the area of color analysis, of sitting in the booth and being the voice you hear when watching basketball games on national television.
Ruth has the knowledge, the expertise, and the passion for it. She fought her way from calling a few games played by her alma mater, Georgetown, to calling some of the biggest basketball games of the season.
Another passion of Ruth’s is motherhood – in fact, that’s what she’s wanted to do, ever since she graduated from Georgetown. After a bad accident during a basketball game where she blows out her knee, she accepts – nay, invites – the challenge of motherhood; not for its Pinterest moments, but for the aggression, the exhaustion, the time, and the skill that motherhood brings.
She was ready to take it on, the way she took on basketball; but when she gets a chance to call a game for Georgetown, she takes it. Which leads to a very bright career in sports broadcasting.
Ruth Devon is everything we love to see in a working professional, particularly someone who works in what is stereotypically a men’s field – in fact, she’s surprised men around the United States when she continues to provide commentary, go for interviews with players and coaches, and make a name for herself in basketball. She manages to climb up in the field of sports broadcasting, making a name for herself, instead of using her husband’s (a prominent basketball coach-turned-analyst) reputation.
In fact, by the second half of the book (spoiler alert!), most people don’t even know she was married to Lester Devon. One woman admitted that she thought Lester was her father (the fact that he’s 13 years older than her played a part in this assumption). Ruth’s biggest goal is to become the first woman to call NBA games on national television, and she’s more than qualified for it.
Of course, Ruth’s only problem isn’t just about her career in sports broadcasting and her relationship with her daughter – that would be far too easy, and life hardly ever is. After getting a divorce, Ruth starts a tenuous romantic relationship with Joel, which begins as a one-night stand and blossoms into something much longer, albeit one that still takes place in hotel rooms, as the two of them constantly travel.
She grapples with her emotions for Joel versus her history with Lester – their family, their shared past, the fact that he coached her, guided her through most things (they got married right after she graduated, which means she did her fair share of growing up with him).
Interspersed among the chapters that detail Ruth’s life is the intense game between the Sonics and the Wildcats, focusing on two players – Darius Lake and Emory Turner. The two players are best friends, and when Emory was shifted to the Sonics, the tension became palpable as the two best friends face each other as opponents. Ruth Devon, having built a close relationship with both players, is on the ground and covers both sides, giving viewers a peek into the inner lives of these two famous players, and what it means when your job now depends on you defeating your best friend in a sport you both love.
What I loved about this book wasn’t just that Ruth was, arguably, one of the best sports broadcasters ever. I loved how Emily Adrian shows the struggles that Ruth goes through for that position – not just to maintain it, but to fight for it, to know that despite all of her talents, there’s a chance she could get passed for a promotion simply because she’s a woman.
We see the efforts that she puts in to remain on top; the long hours watching older games and playbacks, the time spent on social media to keep a track of all the basketball players’ lives (so her commentary can be as informative and well-rounded as possible), the constant tracking of stats, of team changes, of everything that comes with basketball. We also see Ruth hurt, her being painfully aware of what she’s given up to get this far – a full relationship with her daughter, Ariana.
To be honest, I was never into sports – not as a kid growing up, and not as an adult, either. I watch the occasional FIFA game, and the F1 documentary Drive to Survive, but that’s about it. And yet, Adrian’s writing made me want to connect with American basketball; to fall in love with the game as Ruth did, to get sucked into the drama between players, their teams, and the sport itself, and to simply enjoy a game, pure and simple.
In her second novel, Emily Adrian paints an honest picture of what it’s like to work hard to be so good at something, to make a name for yourself but still question your decisions and miss what you gave up; and most of all, how difficult it is to keep going back to what you love because you know what you’ll miss out on, but you can’t just walk away.
The Tempest’s rating: 🌊🌊🌊🌊
THE SECOND SEASON is our Book Club’s pick of the month for August 2021. Check out the first chapter of the book here, join our read-along, and stay tuned for an upcoming Q&A with author Emily as well as 2 live AMA with her soon!
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