Thursday, July 2, 2020

Fast Girls - Book Review

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Three fast girls.  Three very different pathways to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Three: the number of seconds between "get set" and blasting off the starting line into your future.  Three young women running, for all they are worth, for their lives.

Fast Girls is historical fiction that introduces us to real women who broke world records, achieved Olympic gold, rose above rampant racism, sexism, and the societal norms meant to keep them off the track... out of the running for their dreams... out of their place in history.

Betty Robinson.  Louise Stokes.  Helen Stephens.  Remember their names.  These fast girls will teach us much that goes far beyond 100 meters.  From them, we will gain the perspective and insight that becomes a kind of second wind, which is what you need when you hit the wall during a race, or in the midst of dealing with life's hard challenges.

Each fast girl had to rise above tremendous obstacles to become who she was destined to be.  Take Betty Robinson, for starters.  As the first American woman to achieve Olympic gold, at the very first Olympics that included female athletes (Amsterdam, 1928), it seemed the "Golden Girl" had it made.  Not long afterwards, Robinson was involved in a near-fatal plane crash that left her body wrecked beyond hope of any kind of recovery, or any return to her former glory.  Everyone counted her out.  Everyone, that is, except Betty herself.  What she does with her brokenness is what will define her greatness.

Next up, Louise Stokes.  As a member of the first integrated Olympic team, Stokes, a black athlete, will face the kind of abuses no one deserves, or should ever experience.  Her treatment, how she copes with it, and where it leads, even to today's Black Lives Matter movement, is not just a lesson for the history books.  It is living history.  It matters as much right now as it did back in 1932.

Which brings us to Helen Stephens.  Stephens, a misfit, unwanted by her father, mocked and bullied by her childhood peers, so different, so confused about her identity, so incredibly talented.  What will become of Helen?  Who will see her immense promise and provide a means for her to leave the bleak, hardscrabble existence of her youth?

Fast Girls is about so much more than blazing speed.  Even though these women, at their peak, were the fastest women in the world, what mattered, and still matters, is what they did with their enormous capacity for turning tragedies into personal triumph.  Their disappointments and losses, perhaps even more than their triumphs, are what make for compelling reading.

This is a book for the history buff, the athlete, the coach, the teacher, the enthusiastic spectator, the one who cares about the worthiness, and enormous value, of every single person who asks only to be allowed the opportunity to fly down that straightaway toward the achievement of a dream... toward the fulfillment of personal destiny.

*I received an ARC of Fast Girls from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  I wish to thank the author, Elise Hooper, and her publisher, HarperCollins, for this opportunity.

**You may also wish to check out my five-star review of Elise Hooper's fabulous book Learning to See.









Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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15 comments:

  1. Oh this sounds like a book I could really sink my teeth into. I love reading about people, men or women who endure trials and tribulations in order to fulfill their dreams. It always seems to give me hope for my own life and those of my children and grandchildren. Really this book is for anyone aspiring to become the best they can be. Thanks Diana for adding to my growing must read list!

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    1. I am totally with you on that. I love books about inspiring individuals who found a way, despite the trials of life, to do what they were born to do. Here's to becoming the best we can be.

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  2. I am always inspired by individuals who overcome true adversity. I have no doubt this is an excellent book that would encourage all of us.

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    1. Overcoming adversity is the true gold medal achievement in life. We have the opportunity to put ourselves on the victory stand every single day, just in how we face our immediate challenges. This book reminds us that the true glory is in rising up every single time and in helping others get to where they hope to go in life.

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  3. Elise Hooper appears to have a knack for telling the stories of amazingly talented people. Learning to See was excellent, so I am sure this one (Fast Girls) will be just as good. Thanks so much for your interesting review, Diana.

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    1. Wouldn't that be an interesting writing niche? I am beginning to realize I would truly enjoy doing the research for the types of novels (historical fiction) that Elise Hooper writes. She has certainly found a match for her talent. I can't wait to see what she is working on next.

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  4. I love history, especially inspirational stories. I can't imagine what these women had to overcome to reach their goals. sounds like a great read. Thanks for another compelling review.

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    1. I thought things were rough for those of us female athletes who were trying to break into sports before Title IX mandated the inclusion of girls in school athletic programs. The challenges we faced were nothing compared to that of the young ladies who wanted to compete back in the 1920s and 1930s. I gained a great deal of appreciation for the barriers they helped knock down to pave the way for the rest of us who would follow many years down the line. It was amazing to read about the misconceptions people had about the effects of athletic participation on girls or young women. I think anyone who loves history will enjoy delving into the story of these track and field pioneers.

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  5. I'm reading Learning to See right now and loving it. Thanks for this review. I will definately put this book on my to read list and Elise Hooper as one of my favorite authors. I do so love historical fiction.

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    1. Happy to hear you are enjoying Learning to See. It is always fabulous to find an author who writes the kinds of books you love to read. I certainly plan to read everything Elise Hooper writes.

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  6. Sounds like a fantastic book. Inspiring women, fortitude, tenacity - so important to remember the brave who came before us and learn from them. Humanity has a long way to go and that makes books and stories like these vital. This is what needs to be front and center.

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    1. Your comments get right to the heart of the matter. Perfectly stated. I don't need to add a thing. Thank you!

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  7. Diana, you have a real gift for finding books that connect with the human spirit - ours and others'. I'm currently listening to the audio version of The Honey Bus with John (he's been working 7 days and 6-7 nights a week for months, so we can only listen to about 20-30 minutes at a time), and it's absolutely wonderful! This book sounds fantastic as well. You're such a gifted writer yourself - I always marvel at the beauty of your writing whenever I read one of your reviews here!

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    1. I love when a comment makes my day (like right here and now). Even more, I love the person who knows how to lift up the spirits of someone in the process of developing her writing craft. I am thankful for books that I can read, and review, in such a way that others experience a benefit (or feel an uplifting connection). Thank you for the boost! You are a marvel.

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  8. Love, love Olympic theme books! as well as "tragedy into personal triumph" stories. Thank you for highlighting this book!

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