The Longshot

A Novel

The Longshot

Abrilliant, spare debut novel that follows a former mixed martial arts star and his longtime coach over the course of three fraught days as they prepare for his momentous comeback match.

Four years after Rivera knocked Cal from dominance, Cal’s coach, Riley, has set up a rematch—it will be good for Cal, and he’s ready for it. He’s been training harder than ever, trying to shake the lethargy that’s plagued him ever since he lost. Knowing he’s going to face Rivera again, he gets his focus and energy back. He agrees with Riley: he’s ready.

But Rivera has never lost a fight, and in the final days before the match, both Cal and Riley secretly begin to doubt that he can be beaten now. The stakes are high for them—not only do they have no idea what else they’ll do with themselves besides MMA, they’re also desperate not to let each other down.

In taut, rhythmic language, Katie Kitamura—a journalist who has followed MMA for years—renders the urgency, discipline, and mutual affection of athlete and coach with depth and subtlety. As an excruciating tension builds toward the final electrifying scene, their plight becomes our plight, the looming fight becomes every challenge each of us has ever taken on, however uncertain the outcome.

This striking debut upholds a tradition of literary writing about gritty subject matter that includes Denis Johnson and Norman Mailer and goes back through Dos Passos, Steinbeck, and Hemingway. Fans of literary fiction will be drawn to The Finish’s stylized, sensitive portrait of two men striving to stay true to themselves and each other in the only way they know how.
  • Free Press | 
  • 208 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439107522 | 
  • August 2009
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Longshot includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Katie Kitamura. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In The Longshot, Katie Kitamura tells the story of mixed martial arts fighter Cal and his trainer, Riley.  Cal is on his way to a rematch with Rivera, a now legendary MMA fighter with whom Cal had a disastrous fight a few years earlier; a fight that doused the flame of passion Cal had for MMA fighting.  Three years later, Cal and Riley respond to Rivera’s request for a rematch.  For Cal, it presents an opportunity to get back in the ring with the person who made him question his love for fighting.  For Riley, it gives Cal the chance to become the fighter he once was—a powerful, fast champion who could easily become the best in the MMA circuit. 

Kitamura focuses on the electrifying days before the fight which find Cal and Riley traveling, training and traversing a number of obstacles, both physical and psychological.  In a unique narrative form, Kitamura gives insight into both the minds of Riley and Cal, leaving us alone with each of them for a few minutes at a time.  see more

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About the Author

Katie Kitamura
Photo Credit: Hari Kunzru

Katie Kitamura

Katie Kitamura is based in New York. She has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Wired, and The Guardian, and is a regular contributor to Frieze.