To read Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me is to spend a week in a world completely closed to most of us: competitive gymnastics. From my first broken-spoke of a cartwheel back in 4th-grade, I knew I’d have to pick a more earthbound dream.
Yep, I am no Devon Knox, the wunderkind gymnast of Abbott’s story. Young Devon was born to run, tumble and flip. She lives at and for the gym. Her mother, Katie, lives in the van, driving Devon to endless meets, to time-sucking practices. Mom brings along her laptop, hoping to get a little work done while she waits. Little brother Drew tags along too. Good thing he’s a low-maintenance sibling, content to make no demands, to entertain himself with a few toys and schoolbooks.
Dad Eric spends his gym time pacing the sidelines, watching Devon’s form. He meets up with Coach T, charting out Devon’s path towards the Olympics, or planning the new landing pit in the already-state-of-the-art gym.
Devon’s gift keeps the Knox family stretched tight — their time, their money (second mortgages, maxed-out credit cards) and their hopes.
All their fellow gym rats — and don’t forget the parents — exist in a tight social enclave. They spend so much time together working and competing that it spills over into celebration dinners and cook-outs. The moms constantly ask Katie what they can do to boost their daughters up to Devon’s level. The truth is, Devon is a prodigy. She was a leaper and kicker even in Katie’s womb.
And then there’s Gwen, the bossiest of the mothers, the one with the fattest checkbook.
Somebody dies in this story. Abbott writes enough red herrings and plot twists to outnumber Olympians coursing through the airport the week before opening ceremonies.
But I loved reading about the handsome people; the frantically ambitious parents squeezing the most out of their girls before womanhood buds out on their bodies; the champions and what they do when the smallest mistake de-rails the dream of a lifetime.
Group on mats: New York YMCA Camp on Visual hunt /CC BY-NC-ND
Young gymnast/sparkley leotard: WalterPro on VisualHunt / CC BY
Backbender: cdw9 on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC