I fell in love with “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games” in the first ten pages. I knew this wasn’t a story that could be rushed. Within minutes, I closed my library loaner and purchased the ebook.
You’ll be inspired by the true story of University of Washington students who became Olympic champions. “The boys” were average guys, not professional athletes. During the off season, they routinely worked at the family farm, fishing in the Puget Sound, or in the logging business. Becoming champions was a hard fought physical, emotional and mental battle.
You’ll be especially touched when you read about Joe Rantz, abandoned at 10 years old after a family split. Author Daniel James Brown describes Joe’s recollection of his experience being part of a legendary team this way:
“It was when he tried to talk about “the boat” that his words began to falter and tears welled up in his eyes…Finally, watching Joe struggle for composure over and over, I realized that “the boat” was something more than just the shell or its crew. To Joe, it encompassed but transcended both – it was something mysterious and almost beyond definition.
It was a shared experience – a singular thing that had unfolded in a golden sliver of time long gone, when nine good-hearted young men strove together, pulled together as one, gave everything they had for one another, bound together forever by pride and respect and love. Joe was crying, at least in part, for the loss of that vanished moment but much more, I think, for the sheer beauty of it.”
Just in time for the Olympics, PBS has put together a special “American Experience” episode airing across the US in August. However, I urge you to pick up “The Boys in the Boat” and add it to your book bag. Savor every minute. Brown’s writing is insightful and poetic, and the sacrifices to get the gold will keep you on the edge of your seat.