The Penalty Area is a heartwarming novel about overcoming adversity, making human connections, and playing the glorious game of soccer.
Vincent once had a shot at becoming a professional soccer player, but a career-ending injury put an end to his dreams. A tough kid from a poor family, he has become an emotionally cut-off man with frustrated hopes and limited options. He finds himself coaching an under-16 soccer club in an attempt to keep alive his only passion in life.
The team he coaches is little more than a roster of hotheaded boys, none of whom understands the on-field chemistry needed to win. Simply put, they aren't of a championship caliber. When his unemployed sister Madeleine, a single mother, dumps her thirteen-year-old son on him, Vincent panics. With no clue how to take care of a teenager, he brings his nephew to practice and eventually throws him into the scrimmage. It's then that Vincent notices there's something strange about Léonard. He has a preternatural ability for anticipating each striker's intentions, making him a remarkably talented goalkeeper, but he seems detached, absent, lost. It becomes clear that Léonard has undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome, and also that, with Léonard's abilities as a goalkeeper, Vincent's ragtag team has a chance to reach the finals. For that to happen, for the team to find a reason to rally behind this strange kid from Paris, Vincent will have to let down his guard and open his heart for the first time ever.
A warm and engaging read, The Penalty Area is about building a sense of family on your own terms.
About the Author
Alain Gillot is an admired journalist, a screenwriter, and a comic book author. The Penalty Area is his debut novel.
For Europa Editions, Howard Curtis has translated five novels by Jean-Claude Izzo, including all three books in his Marseilles trilogy, as well as fiction by Francisco Coloane, Luis Sepúlveda, Caryl Férey, Daniel Arsand, Santiago Gamboa, and Carole Martinez.
Praise for The Penalty Area
“Expertly translated by Curtis, Gillot’s novel about soccer is also a delicate character study of a solitary man slowly rejoining the world.” —Publishers Weekly
"No love of sport is required to feel the genuine emotion pulsing from this story about making connections." —Shelf Awareness
“A slim, understated novel of nicely drawn vignettes.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Gillot tells a fresh, original story and writes with finesse." —L'Express
“Gillot’s enthusiasm for sport emerges early as he tenderly and humorously describes Léonard’s discovery of soccer, a revelation that is reminiscent of Lionel Messi’s story . . . Léonard and Vincent bring each other fresh perspectives on their situations, allowing each to begin a new life by repairing the wounds of the past.” —Le Monde