Book Review: Forward

Book Review: Forward: A Memoir

The FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 is coming up in just a few short months. Our women are the reigning World Cup winners and are looking to make it a #tourdefour. To get ready and excited, I thought I’d review a book from one of the key players in the last World Cup cycle.

Abby Wambach is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). 184 international goals for her country! This is an incredible feat of skill, athleticism, and endurance. To put this in some perspective, I will compare Wambach to other greats. Pele only has 77 international goals. Cristiano Ronaldo 85–yes, Ronaldo has time to score more, but not enough time to tack on 100. The men’s leading goal scorer is Iranian Ali Daei, with 109 goals. Wambach has smoked them all. This memoir gives us a glimpse into greatness and the not so great side of the greatest of all time.

I want to start by saying I can’t believe I had this book on my shelf for a year or two before reading it. I am kicking myself for postponing it for so long. I was expecting the book to be a recap of important games and goals. I didn’t want to hear the GOAT gloat. I was wrong. Instead, I found a narrative of the inner dialogue of Wambach on her dueling personalities: “chill Abby” and “intense Abby.” Wambach chooses to include raw moments where she hit rock bottom alongside moments of exhilarating achievements. She is candid, laying some difficult moments bare on the page. She owns up to her mistakes and chooses not to glamorize them. Wambach is forthcoming in everything from alcohol, pills, to divorce. Wambach confronts those topics head on in order for others to learn from them and not repeat what she has done.

I never felt cheated reading this memoir as if she kept something from the reader. It is the summary of her life, from her perspective, hitting key moments. We watched gold medal matches and celebrated the victories with her. Now we get to hear Wambach’s inspirational words motivating her team to victory but also encouraging the reader to be better. 

Wambach’s biggest hurdle was that she felt she was unlovable. My mind struggled to fathom the idea that someone who is loved by millions the world over could feel unlovable. Wambach shares, “My mind treads back to it’s well-worn truisms: I am unloved. I am unlovable. I am abandoned and forgotten. Even if I force myself to be seen, I will never truly be found.” And there you have the driving force behind her greatness. Like so many others, she strove to be better at soccer in order to be loved. But it wasn’t enough. She sought to numb the pain with alcohol and pills, hoping the answers would be in the bottom of the bottle. I respect this kind of candor. I had no idea all this was going on behind the scenes on some of the most watched stages and a life as scrutinized as her own. 

One of the pieces of advice conveyed is that soccer is not everything, a lesson Wambach learned in retrospect. Life is filled with love, passion, team, family, friends, support, and overcoming. Wambach had many labels in her life, but she needed to find out what her title was away from soccer. Wambach walks us through each of the labels she has been given, which is how the book chapters are laid out. We label those around us, sometimes with good intentions, but it ends up defining them. I empathize with Wambach thinking of all the titles I’ve been given.

The writing is succinct, compelling, and moving. I could not put this book down. It is addicting. It is a smooth and easy read. Wambach eloquently moves through political and social topics she is known to defend, giving acknowledgement to the moments that shaped her thinking, leading her to advocate for issues important to her. She does not dwell on those topics or lecture the reader in an attempt to persuade. She shares the instances that helped compose her and propel her forward.

I recommend this book to anyone:

  •   Who wants to know more about the WNT
  •   Who wants to get ready for WWC2019
  •   Played soccer (male or female)
  •   Injured athletes
  •   Anyone struggling with addiction
  •   Feels unloved (you are not alone)
  •   Feeling the soccer void
  •   Feel like you don’t fit in/belong
  •   LGBTQ (or unsure)
  •   Who wants to read a good book

Wambach has a new book WOLFPACK: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game set to be released April 9, 2019.

Forward: A Memoir. Abby Wambach, Karen Abbott. Dey Street Books, September 13th 2016. 240  pages

Goodreads.com rating: 3.91/5 stars

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