THE LONGSHOT

Katie Kitamura

 Cal and his trainer, Riley, are on their way to Mexico for a make-or-break rematch with legendary fighter Rivera. Four years ago, Cal became the only mixed martial arts fighter to take Rivera the distance — but the fight nearly ended him. Only Riley, who has been at his side for the last ten years, knows how much that fight changed things for Cal. And only Riley really knows what’s now at stake, for both of them.

Katie Kitamura’s brilliant and stirring debut novel follows Cal and Riley through the three fraught days leading up to this momentous match,

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 Cal and his trainer, Riley, are on their way to Mexico for a make-or-break rematch with legendary fighter Rivera. Four years ago, Cal became the only mixed martial arts fighter to take Rivera the distance — but the fight nearly ended him. Only Riley, who has been at his side for the last ten years, knows how much that fight changed things for Cal. And only Riley really knows what’s now at stake, for both of them.

Katie Kitamura’s brilliant and stirring debut novel follows Cal and Riley through the three fraught days leading up to this momentous match, as each privately begins to doubt that Cal can win. As the tension builds toward the final electrifying scene, the looming fight becomes every challenge each of us has ever taken on, no matter how uncertain the outcome.

In hypnotic, pared-down prose, The Longshot offers a striking portrait of two men striving to stay true to themselves and each other in the only way they know how.

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  • Free Press
  • Paperback
  • August 2009
  • 208 Pages
  • 9781439107522

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$14.00

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About Katie Kitamura

 Katie Kitamura was born in 1979, and divides her time between New York and London. The Longshot is her first novel.

Praise

“An extraordinary novel from a major new talent. In taut, pared-down prose, Kitamura takes the reader right into the ring. Hari Kunzru, author of The Impressionist

The Longshot takes the reader into the minds, hearts, and bodies of two highly dedicated and taciturn men. Kitamura’s descriptions of mixed-martial-arts fighting are brutal yet beautiful…. Her writing is spellbinding…in its power. Kitamura is a genuine discovery.” Booklist, (starred review)

“Spare and beautifully written. . . . [Kitamura] brings a physicality to her story with descriptions of the action so vivid the reader feels the pain of every punch and kick.” —Publishers Weekly

Discussion Questions

A number of times over the course of the story, a certain question comes up: What went wrong in that fateful fight between Cal and Rivera four years ago? Discuss Cal and Riley’s conflicting opinions on what actually happened. Who do you think is right?

Riley comments that in the beginning of Cal’s career, Cal got so used to winning that he just thought it was “the way it was”(p. 16). How did that make losing to Rivera that much harder for him? Why has it taken him so long to get back into serious fighting?

What was the result of Murray and Rivera’s fight? Do you think Cal would rather follow in Murray’s footsteps than risk another defeat by Rivera? Why do you think he chooses to fight him again?

Cal and Riley each experience a fight-or-flight impulse during the twenty-four hours leading up to the fight. Why does each of them decide to stay? How do you think the novel would have turned out if one of them had fled? What would it have meant to the one who got left behind?

Discuss the dwindling of Riley’s optimism over the course of the book. What makes him realize that Cal should not go into the fight? Why does Riley shut his eyes and say, “Things would have to play out. There was no other way” (p. 150)? In your opinion, was there, in fact, another way?

What is Riley’s game plan for Cal’s fight with Rivera? Why do trainers create a game plan, and why does he think it will work? Does the strategy actually come into play during the real fight?

Discuss this statement: “The kid had everything a fighter needed and if he didn’t become champion then Riley would have no one to blame but himself” (p. 15). Why does Riley put so much pressure on himself to turn Cal into a champion? Do you think this blindly leads him into believing that Cal can win the rematch?

Even though he has never been knocked out, why do you think Cal “guessed he knew the feeling” (p. 23)? Why is it so important to Cal to remain standing in the final fight?

Having read Kitamura’s work, do you agree with her statement that “there was nothing simple about a fight” (p. 27)? Did The Longshot change your perspective on the world of mixed martial arts fighting, on the people involved in it, and on the fighting itself? Why or why not?

Do you agree with Kitamura’s assertion that “a fight was just a series of logical conclusions” (p.111)? If so, how do you feel about Cal’s claim that habit overrides fear, logic and need (p. 139)?

Do you think Cal dies at the end of the book? Why or why not?

The Longshot could have been a much longer story. Why do you think Kitamura chose to keep it short in length and free of much description? How does this choice affect the story’s impact? Does it make it more or less powerful? How so?