on Feb. 3, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
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As a young woman, Aganetha “Aggie” Smart made history as a gold medalist in the 1928 Olympics, the first games in which women were allowed to compete in track events. Many decades later, at the age of 104, she is languishing in a nursing home when two young strangers, a boy and a girl, appear and ask to interview her for a film they are making to help fund the girl’s own Olympic dreams. Aggie eagerly agrees; although she is bound to a wheelchair and rarely speaks, her mind is still sharp, and she yearns for adventure.
The young strangers take Aggie to her old family farm, where her memories come flooding back. As the strangers ineptly handle the old woman, she relives her childhood and young adulthood, remembering her beloved sister who died too young, her running career, her deep friendship with another runner, a romance that has massive ramifications, and family secrets.
Moving back and forth between the present and the past as it gradually pulls back the layers of Aggie’s life, Girl Runner is a portrait of a woman’s lifelong battle against social conventions as she lives, loves, and runs with little regard to the rules.
On paper, I should love this book. Novels about ladies subverting expectations through history are kind of my jam. And I liked this book — Aggie is an interesting character with a fascinating life, and the way Snyder writes about running is fantastic — but it didn’t blow me away. There was some homosexual subtext that I wished was explored better, the ending felt a bit too predictable and tidy, and it lacked the emotional punch I was hoping for. Overall, I enjoyed this novel while I was reading it, but it hasn’t really stuck with me since I finished.
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