When I first heard about Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder, I was intrigued by the notion of a young woman running in the 1928 Olympics. I enjoy reading about women who are outside the norm of what is expected of a woman. I suppose it feeds the feminist in me. So when I picked up this book at the library, I expected to read about the trials and tribulation of Aganetha Smart’s journey to the Olympics. But it turns out, this is only a vehicle to tell the rest of the story about Aganetha’s life.
WHAT INTERESTED ME:
At times, this story was hard to follow because it moves back and forth to different time periods in Aganetha’s life. What did interest me was how the author hung the story telling, like branches on a tree, onto the present day: a young man and woman kidnap Aganetha from a retirement home and take her back to the farm she grew up. While there her memory is triggered by events in her life. And of course, memories don’t come to us in a linear order.
WHAT I LEARNED:
After I completed this story I started to wonder what the point of it all was. What did I learn? But sometimes, I think it’s enough to simply write about something, or someone, of interest to you, and to practice with style. Here is where the author succeeds.
RUNNING AS METAPHOR:
If I looked deeper into the story, I could probably come up with a metaphor for running that goes beyond the Olympic Games. Perhaps we are all running through life. Time goes by so quickly and we are constantly trying to keep up with it. And when we get old and can’t do all the things we could in our youth, all we have left is out memories. In the end that’s all Aganetha had, until she discover that she had more than she realized. I won’t tell you what it was because that would spoil the ending for you.
FILLING IN THE GAPS:
Some have said that much of Aganetha’s story is on the surface, and I would have to agree. There are things that are kept from us initially leaving us to wonder what the heck happened. We get to watch the characters move through the story and have a sense of who they are, but we don’t really get to know them. It’s up to us to fill in the gaps of who a person is based on what they do and how they respond to life. Not a bad way to go. It just takes a bit more work for the reader.
It feels like everything just fell into Aganetha’s life: a shot at the Olympics, modelling, and the job as a journalist. I also have to wonder at some of the character choices. What was the point of the brother who dies and leaves his common law wife to manage four children alone? What does it add to the story? Aganetha only touched their lives from the periphery. We only see the father from a distance. I don’t recall them interacting very much. We get to know the mother a little better, and her sister Cora.
I don’t usually like to dissect a story to this extent. What I normally do is tell you what the story is about and then share what the story means to me and how it has affected my life. That I can’t do with this story. However, as a writer, I found it helpful to be able to be more honest about my impressions and to recognize certain details that worked and what didn’t.
My minister once told me that to disagree is to bring intellectual discussion to the group, when I was debating whether to join a study group because I didn’t agree with the theme. I think that whether we like a story or not, it’s important to have the discussion – to share our thoughts and to learn what works and what doesn’t. And I have my son to thank for my decision to complete Carrie Snyder’s new book. He said it’s important to read books that challenge you to think in a new way. Turned out he was right.