Monday, January 12, 2015

Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder

I don't want to give away too much of the plot of this book as it unfolds a bit like a mystery (though, of course, parts are predictable from very early on).

The prologue in a nursing home when Aganetha (Aggie) Smart is 104 years old.  She is wheelchair bound and thought to be deaf but in fact seems quite in touch with her surroundings.  Her main worry seems to be who will be left to write her obituary (we later learn writing obituaries was one of her careers).

Chapter one jumps far back in time to when Aggie is a young child following her older half sister, Fannie, into the graveyard on the family farm.  We immediately learn that this family has been touched by tragedy with several infant deaths and the death of Fannie's mother.  Her father remarries and Aggie and two other sisters are born.

The book jumps back and forth this way with elderly Aggie being seemingly kidnapped by two teenagers who take her back to the family farm, ostensibly to film a movie about her.  The story of Aggie's past which slowly unravels eventually explains the connection the two teenagers have to her.

The highlight of Aggie's career was winning gold for the 800 metre race in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.  One factual aspect of this book is that women were permitted to run the 800 metre in 1928 but then prohibited until 1960 as the Olympic organizers felt the race was too hard on a woman's more delicate constitution.

Aggie returns to Toronto after the race and suffers through the Depression, an ill-fated romance with Johnny, an equally ill-fated friendship with Glad and more tragedy striking her siblings and parents.  Through it all she remains strong, if somewhat of a loner.  She often escapes through running.

The story is really well told and I like how it moved back and forth in time, leaving me curious but not confused.  I definitely recommend this book.

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