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Original Issue


Whether she's slamming volleyballs into the sand or showing skin
for the world's top fashion magazines, Gabrielle Reece, one of
pro beach volleyball's best female players and the current
captain of powerful Team Nike, is a striking physical presence.
A 6'3" hardbody, Reece also has a sharp, probing mind. It is
this less-obvious side of Reece that informs her thoughtful
autobiography, a book notable not only for its subject's account
of her inspiring journey but also for her brutal honesty.

That frankness is most refreshing when Reece discusses her
personal life. From her tale of feeling abandoned at age 3 1/2
by her mother, who went to Mexico City to train dolphins for the
circus, to the mocking reference to her superintense boyfriend,
big-wave surfing icon Laird Hamilton, as the Yoko Ono of the Pro
Beach Volleyball Tour, Reece's fierce sense of self unfolds in a
clear and logical manner. She has a great deal to say about the
empowerment of women and the stereotypes that confront them. Yet
Reece is hardly a traditional feminist. "I'm willing to be a
babe for a living," she says early in the book, and as her story
is revealed it becomes easy to decipher the origins of her
cynicism. Subjected as a child to taunts about her height, Reece
developed a hard edge. She also developed a firm philosophy: For
her, self-satisfaction can only be realized through hard work
and continuously pushing one's limits, an ethos that has made
her a forceful presence on the beach-volleyball tour.

Reece's story is told in chapters that alternate between her
first-person narrative and co-author Karbo's detailed account of
Reece's 1996 season. The campaign turns out to be a disastrous
one for Team Nike, the four-woman ensemble of which Reece is the
captain, de facto coach and chief decision-maker. Reece's
struggles with team chemistry, motivation and leadership are
intriguing, and she has plenty to say to women in particular
about the value of confronting ungracious displays of emotions
from others and of being assertive.


COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW ECCLES/OUTSIDE [Cover of book Big Girl in the Middle]