Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 3rd, 2015 by Harper (In Canada, published in 2014 by House of Anansi Press)
Resonant of Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things and Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, Girl Runner is an unforgettable, beautifully written novel that celebrates a woman born to reach beyond the limitations of her time.
As a young runner, Aganetha Smart defied everyone’s expectations to win a gold medal for Canada in the 1928 Olympics. It was a revolutionary victory, because this was the first Games in which women could compete in track events—and they did so despite opposition. But now Aganetha Smart is in a nursing home, and nobody realizes that the frail centenarian was once a bold pioneer.
When two young strangers appear asking to interview Aganetha for their film about female athletes, she readily agrees. Despite her frailty, she yearns for adventure and escape. And though her achievement may have been forgotten by history, her memories of chasing gold in Amsterdam remain sharp. But that triumph is only one thread in the rich tapestry of her life. Her remarkable story is colored by tragedy as well as joy, and in Girl Runner Carrie Snyder pulls back the layers of time to reveal how Aganetha’s amazing athleticism helped her escape from a family burdened by secrets and sorrow.
However, as much as Aganetha tries, she cannot outrun her past or the social conventions of her time. As the pieces of her life take shape, it becomes clear that these filmmakers may not be who they seem. . .
This is a remarkable story of ambition, self-discovery, and family. I loved every minute of it! Girl Runner was inspired by the story of the Matchless Six, a group of Canadian women who returned Champions from the 1928 Olympics. It tells the story of a fictional woman, Aganetha Smart, who embodied the same inspiring and revolutionary ambitions.
Girl Runner is told in a duel narrative, each a different time period in Aggie’s life. There is the present where she is 104 and in a nursing home, and there is the exploration of her past as a young woman. I love this type of narrative. As the present goes on, something reminds Aggie of something in her past. We are then whisked off to live it alongside her. This is one of my favourite story structures and it worked really well here. It adds so many layers to the story and the added mystery of knowing the ultimate outcome of the past without knowing the details or how it came to be—those are revealed later.
At one point in Aggie’s life, she become an obituary writer for a newspaper. This is an interesting addition because throughout the story, Aggie imagines the obituaries for different people in her life, summing them up in a few sentences. This was a really interesting, often poignant, aspect of the book that I quite liked. This, coupled with the duel narrative, made for really great and enjoyable structure!
Aggie’s life was a tumultuous one, riddled with obstacles and tragedy. Not only so, but she grew up in a time where gender determined much of one’s life. Throughout everything, one thing always remained true for Aggie—her love of running. This is presented in an almost tangible way in the story. Although I hate running myself, I could feel Aggie’s love of it. I didn’t just see it and understand that she loved it—I could feel it, too. While reading, I didn’t know that Snyder herself was a runner, but I should have guessed. This is just one example of the skill in Snyder’s writing!
This story is about a runner, yes. But it’s not really about running. Running is a facet of Aggie’s life. It is a huge part of her—but there is so much more. This story shows what running meant to Aggie—how it drove her, how it kept her sane—but most importantly how it helped her to overcome all that was thrown in her path (and there was a lot). Running was Aggie’s true love, and remained her defining attribute in every phase of her long life:
All my life I’ve been going somewhere, aimed toward a fixed point on the horizon that seems never to draw nearer. In the beginning, I chased it with abandon, with confidence, and somewhat later with frustration, and then with grief, and later yet with the clarity of an escape artist. It is far too late to stop, even if I run in my mind only, out of habit.
This book was beautiful, compelling, and poignant. I loved it! The fact that it was written by a Canadian and it set in Canada was an added bonus! If you enjoy General Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, or Family Sagas I definitely recommend that you check this one out.
About the Author
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.
This book sounds SO AWESOME. I love thrillers. I think this book also has a mythological/magical realism element to it and I love that in books!
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
YA Paranormal Fantasy
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published January 13th, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
$20.00 (List Price CAD)
Purchase: [Amazon] [Book Depository]
Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.
As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.
‘Well, you know about time. How slow it is when you’re little and how speeds up faster and faster once you’re grown. Well, now it’s just a blur. I can’t keep track of it anymore! But it’s like time is sort of… balanced. We’re young for such a small fraction of our lives, and yet our youth seems to stretch on forever. Then we’re old for years and years, but time flies by fastest then. So it all comes out equal in the end, don’t you see.’
This is the first book I’ve read by Anne Tyler but it definitely won’t be the last! She won the Pulitzer prize in 1999 for Breathing Lessons so that’s definitely going on my TBR! Check this one out if you like family stories, literary fiction, or general adult fiction!