Winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize
Billy Carlyle is a professional fighter starting to lose. His eyes cut too easily and his friends—Gabriel, an aspiring actor, and Sam, an artist preparing for her first gallery show—try to persuade Billy to leave the ring. Bound by years in a foster program, they are each other’s only family. From the streets of Manhattan to the gyms of Paris, from struggling with hard pasts to harnessing the primal pull, Both Members of the Club is a story of friendship and ambition and violence set against the world of boxing, a place where bodies get tested and truths are exposed.
The moment I finished Adam Berlin’s novel Both Members of the Club, I at once understood what had been causing me to pause, reflect, and then read on—almost like stepping back during a fight and then charging forward again at your opponent. It was the question that was there from start to finish, as it is for all of us every day of our lives—what do we fight for? Like a powerful hook, this book surprises and shatters.
—Teddy Atlas, ESPN commentator and boxing trainer
Is it a boxing novel? Or a love story? More the latter, I think. Either way, Adam Berlin’s Both Members of the Club is fine and memorable work, a poignant reminder that lovers, like fighters, are inevitably educated in the ways of loss.
— Mark Kriegel, author of The Good Son: The Life of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini
Praise For Both Members of the Club
“Berlin’s connection to boxing is profound. The fight scenes in Both Members of the Club, in particular, are rendered with such deftness that it feels less like reading a book than visiting the cinema. He understands that boxing is the ultimate proving ground for masculinity, with all that that means and does not. He also understands that outside the arena, with its screaming fans and testosterone fueled feats of derring-do, awaits the boulevard of broken dreams. But Berlin doesn’t overdo it. He is a master of restraint. His writing is more elegant than muscular; but however polished, it has an edge that suits both the material and the author himself.”
— Robert Ecksel, editor of Boxing.com
“Berlin continues to explore the themes that fascinate him—redemption, violence, loyalty—and his readers will be fascinated in turn. His lean prose and kinetic boxing scenes make for one hard-hitting novella.”
“Both Members of the Club is a gritty slice-of-life portrait of the hurt and pain in boxing.”
— Tom Hauser, author of Missing, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times
“Berlin has written a first-rate novella about that which puts our backs to the ropes and knocks us and our illusions down and sometimes —out. Like Billy Carlyle, the best of us will go down swinging, but we’re all headed in the same direction. Here’s to the losers, Berlin says without saying, bless us all.”
— Springs Toledo, author of The Gods of War: Boxing Essays
“Proving that the boxing novel is still alive and well, Berlin (The Number of Missing) has created an appropriately gritty story about an uneasy triangle of twenty-somethings trying to make their marks in New York City.”
— Publishers Weekly
“An astonishingly personal and touching account of a trio of friends who have emerged from a parentless, family-less childhood to form a lifetime bond…Berlin displays and dramatizes the physical ordeal of training, of boxing, and offers it without romance, without ideal, but also without apology. It’s a stunning story that resonates long after the last page is turned.”
— Clay Reynolds, author of The Vigil and Franklin’s Crossing
“The triumphant MFA golden boy of “Headlock” is gone – lost maybe to critical reviews, maybe to a dying industry, maybe to other experiences – and replaced by a guy who attracts you by not-caring if you’re interested, one who doesn’t have to tell you there are things he’s not telling you. Such are the layers and textures time and practice alone provide. Adam Berlin’s “Both Members of the Club” is an achievement.”
— Bart Barry, 15 Rounds