Sumo

Thien Pham, Author
Thien Pham. Roaring Brook/First Second, $21.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-59643-581-0
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The dual shattered dreams of a career in the NFL and marriage to his longtime girlfriend spur burly Scott to pack up and leave behind the life he knew, opting instead for total cultural transformation as a professional sumo wrestler in training. After dying his hair black and embarking on the tradition-bound sport’s rigorous physical and mental training, Scott ponders his life and the decisions he’s made, all the while struggling to figure out whether he has what it takes to succeed on his new path. Bolstered by the encouragement of his no-nonsense coach and the friendship of the coach’s English-speaking daughter, Scott nonetheless wrestles with self-doubt and regret, and his journey is as thoughtful and compelling as his newly chosen sport is intense and concussive. Surprisingly quiet and introspective, this effort is a pleasant surprise that moves briskly, propelled by simple, practically minimalist art that utterly charms. The ambiguous/symbolic ending may baffle some, but it’s the perfect coda for a piece that so effectively fuses two quite disparate cultures, with its protagonist serving as the catalyst for that melding of East and West. (Dec.)
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