Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review: Open

Summary: Far more than a superb memoir about the highest levels of professional tennis, Open is the engrossing story of a remarkable life.

Andre Agassi had his life mapped out for him before he left the crib. Groomed to be a tennis champion by his moody and demanding father, by the age of twenty-two Agassi had won the first of his eight grand slams and achieved wealth, celebrity, and the game’s highest honors. But as he reveals in this searching autobiography, off the court he was often unhappy and confused, unfulfilled by his great achievements in a sport he had come to resent. Agassi writes candidly about his early success and his uncomfortable relationship with fame, his marriage to Brooke Shields, his growing interest in philanthropy, and—described in haunting, point-by-point detail—the highs and lows of his celebrated career. -- Vintage

I'm always up for a good memoir and OPEN by Andre Agassi most definitely fits the bill. I had read the rave reviews about this book when it first came out in hardcover, but unfortunately I never got around to reading it. I so regret waiting this long because OPEN will probably be one of my favorite books of 2010. I can't really say that I remember reading a better memoir than this one. Agassi's life story was fascinating and the writing was excellent; however, I think it was Agassi's "openness" and honesty that really blew me away.

I wasn't always an Andre Agassi fan, though. I thought he had an awful temper and was more worried about his image than winning tennis matches. In fact, for many years, I was probably more of a fan of Pete Sampras', Agassi's arch rival. It wasn't until Agassi was a little older (and more of an underdog) that I came to actually find myself rooting for him. And towards the end of his career, like many Americans, I had warmed up to him and considered him the most exciting player in American tennis.

So I admit that I picked up OPEN, I already had a soft spot in my heart for Andre Agassi. I knew he had his fair share of ups and downs both professionally and personally, but I respected his ability to turn his life around. And I really appreciated how much time and money (over $85 million) Agassi has spent on the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy for underprivileged children. I kind of knew that it would be one of those stories that would just warm my heart.

And I was right -- I absolutely loved Agassi's story as well as almost everything about this book. I read it over a weekend and couldn't put it down. My poor husband probably knows more about Andre Agassi than he ever cared to know. This truly is a book for fans of tennis, but also anyone who loves a good story.

I was immediately hooked on OPEN from the first few pages. The book begins with a scene titled "The End" and it's an extremely powerful chapter. To be honest, I was really, really impressed with the writing. So much so that I turned to the Acknowledgments section to see if Agassi really penned this book by himself (I was thinking that he could have had a career as a writer if that entire tennis gig didn't work out.) I wasn't totally surprised to see that he had some help in the form of J.R. Moehringer, author of THE TENDER BAR (another really great book, by the way.) Even though there was another writer, the book was still entirely Agassi's story. OPEN read as if Agassi was just having a conversation with a friend, and I thought it was filled with the same passion and intensity that we came to recognize in Agassi's on-the-court actions.

And that brings me to the next reason that I loved this book so much -- Agassi was so incredibly honest... and open. (I have to add that the title is absolutely perfect!) Agassi doesn't hesitate to delve into the many problems he had in his life from his relationship to his father, to his drug problems, to dropping out of high school, to his failed marriage to Brooke Shields, to the ups and downs of his career, to his insecurities about his hair (or lack thereof), and even to his hatred of the game of tennis. As I read this book, I couldn't help but feel bad for Agassi because for so much of his life, he seemed like a tortured soul. Even though it seemed like he had it all -- fame, fortune, etc., I don't think he found true happiness until he met his wife Stefanie Graf.

Agassi's story is an incredibly interesting one, but at its heart, I thought this memoir was extremely uplifting. Throughout Agassi's entire life, he struggled with accepting himself and finding some sort of contentment and happiness. With the support of some wonderful people that wouldn't give up on Agassi (or let him give up on himself), Andre Agassi was able to turn around not only his career, but also his entire life. Despite Agassi's amazing life and career, I think OPEN resonates with readers because we learn that he isn't really all that different than many of us. And personally, I found his story to be one that inspired me -- especially when it came to his perseverance and how much he gives back to his community.

Needless to say, I adored this book (and I admit that I love Andre Agassi now too!) Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I loved this memoir too...the audio was fabulous. I really loathed the guy when he was at his peak, but now I feel completely different about him.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm not a big memoir liker, but I did read a summary of this in a magazine and found it very interesting!

bermudaonion said...

You know I love a good memoir. This is actually one of the books I spied at the airport during my recent travels. Did Agassi have a ghost writer or does he write that well?

Alyce said...

I know very little about Agassi, but I love memoirs so I'll keep this one in mind.

Karlie said...

I want to read this one! I have loved Andre Agassi for many years!!

S. Krishna said...

I skimmed over your review very lightly since I've already started this one. I can already tell it's going to be great.