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“Exceptional...fast and smart, funny and sad, this is an outstanding sports novel, and Joe Mungo Reed is an author to watch” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
Sol and Liz are a couple on the cusp. He’s a professional cyclist in the Tour de France, a workhorse, but not yet a star. She’s a geneticist on the brink of a major discovery, either that or a loss of funding. They’ve just welcomed their first child into the world, and their bright future lies just before them—if only they can reach out and grab it.
But as Liz’s research slows, as Sol starts doping, their dreams grow murkier and the risks graver. Over the whirlwind course of the Tour, they enter the orbit of an extraordinary cast of conmen and aspirants, and the young family is brought ineluctably into the depths of an illegal drug smuggling operation. As Liz and Sol flounder to discern right from wrong, up from down, they are forced to decide: What is it we’re striving for? And what is it worth?
“Joe Mungo Reed’s unforgettable debut novel introduces us to a powerful new literary voice—as riveting as Don DeLillo’s or Toni Morrison’s” (Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club). We Begin Our Ascent dances nimbly between tragic and comic, exploring the cost of ambition and the question of what gives our lives meaning. Reed melds the powerful themes of great marital dramas like Revolutionary Road with the humor, character, and heart of a George Saunders collection. Throughout, we’re drawn inside the cycling world and treated to the brilliant literary sports-writing of modern classics like The Art of Fielding or End Zone.