Both Members of the Club by Adam Berlin: Review and Summary

Both Members of the Club by Adam BerlinBoth Members of the Club is a boxing novel written by Adam Berlin. This is a story about a struggling fighter named Billy Carlyle. Billy seems to have lost his touch. He starts to bleed reasonably quickly during the fights which are hindering his progress. The other characters in the story are the two friends of Billy’s named Gabriel and Sam.

Gabriel is a promising actor who is looking to make a name for himself in the showbiz industry. Sam, on the other hand, is an artist looking to host her very first gallery show. She is concerned for Bill’s well-being and continually pesters her to search for a life beyond the ring. All three of them are very close to each other. Their only real family, they have are each other. Bill, Sam, and Gabriel are all haunted by violent and abusive childhoods and thus rely on each other to find comfort and peace in life.

The author tries to use the concept of boxing to shine some light on the struggles of these young protagonists of the story. Using this analogy, Mr. Berlin shows through his characters that, much like boxing, people must learn how to absorb life’s “punches.” One must learn to handle the pain and the disappointment and find a way to keep going. As the story progresses, we see that the trio finally realizes that to succeed in life they must be prepared to do whatever is necessary, even if it means cutting all ties with people who were the dearest to you at some point in your life.

The book is expertly written. Adam Berlin possesses a gift. Especially the fight sequences in the ring have significantly been lauded by the critics. The attention to detail is exemplary. Mr. Berlin weaves such an intricate plot that readers often find themselves inside the ring with Billy Carlyle. Every punch, every cut, every jibe feels so real that one may wonder if this is not a story but an account of some real events.

All three of the main characters struggle with different prospects throughout the book. Billy finds himself falling in love with Sam. He makes her the center of his attention, and as a result, his career suffers. Sam on the other is shown to be a very prudent woman. She knows what she wants and is ready to sacrifice her relationship with Billy and Gabriel to succeed.

Like the other books written by Adam Berlin, Both Members of the Club has also been written predominantly in the first person perspective. Although some critics question Mr. Berlin’s decision of throwing in a painter, an actor and a boxer altogether in the same plot, the flow of the story is quite satisfying. The dialogues are the soul of the whole tale and help us get a good feel for the mindset of the characters and what they were going through. This book is indeed one of Mr. Berlin’s most beautiful works.

The book becomes significant because it is another way to show the life of boxing as a metaphor of dark memories, so during each fight sensitize more to the protagonist getting it to find the balance between negative and positive things
Strengthens the bond of friendship and family, demonstrating that there are happy endings after all and that every aspect of life has a reason to be and for which, under any circumstance, one must be brave.

Being this one of the secret plots behind the literary text, it is important to note that these are facts that are always experienced by boxing professionals and that, therefore, history is not far from real life. Boxing lovers can not miss this book full of realities and with a great history


Adam Berlin is the author four novels, including Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s Press/winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award) and Both Members of the Club (Texas A&M University Consortium Press/winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize), and the poetry collection The Standing Eight (FLP).

He is co-founder and co-editor of J Journal: New Writing on Justice, John Jay’s literary journal, and co-editor of John Jay’s Finest, the yearly anthology of outstanding student writing.  He teaches creative writing and composition courses at John Jay.