“All my life I’ve been going somewhere, aimed toward a fixed point horizon that never seems to draw nearer.”
Aganetha Smart (Aggie) has led an extraordinary life. She is a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history.
Even now, confined to a wheelchair it seems that she is still running. Chasing and reflecting on a past that is laden with struggles, sacrifices, sadness and complex family relationships.
“This is a graveyard of dead children, all boys, my half-brothers. I am relieved to have been born a girl.”
In Girl Runner, Carrie Snyder proves that she is a master storyteller, revealing two stories in parallel, one post war and the other in the present day; both stories equally as compelling and relatable.
“What do I know of war? I’ll never be a boy, never be a son. War is never going to be my way out.”
Aggie reminds me of the protagonist from Emma Healey’s book Elizabeth Is Missing. Emma’s description of a woman dealing with Alzheimer’s is so engulfing and compelling that you form a strong connection to the character. In Girl Runner, Carrie Snyder does the same, building a wonderful story around a character who has lived a full life and even at 104 years still has not lost the spark in her. It is a book that is well-crafted, inspiring, and with a dash of sadness beneath the surface.
“I don’t like the other girls particularly, and they don’t particularly like me. I think them silly and obvious, and they think me standoffish and peculiar. Perhaps we are right about each other, as much as we are wrong. We are all of us young, independent, hoping for more, but at different volumes.”
Using historical anecdotes for telling her story, Carrie Snyder shaped the world around Girl Runner. Researching the world around the 1920s gave her additional fodder to tell a story of women in the 1920s, whose stories have long been forgotten.
Aggie’s story focuses not only on her life, but on a greater struggle of women, whether it’s overcoming hurdles in competing in professional sports or in constantly fighting for gender equality.
In this excerpt she describes her sister who is confined to the role of wife and motherhood…
“She remains a scattered housekeeper, a slothful cook, a pretty face with eyes fading into a distant point.”
In Girl Runner, Aggie has lived all her life with one burning desire: to move forward. When we first meet her in the book, she is in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. But, then an unexpected change occurs in the 104-year-old former Olympian.
Two strangers unexpected arrive at the nursing home and want to take her on an outing. It is unclear who they are, or what they may want from her. But in the process of that story unfolding, Aggie unfolds the layers of her own past, and reveals a history that is both endearing and engaging. And, in doing so, she continues to maintain that feisty sure-footedness of a woman who never stops running.
“I run and I run, without rest, as if even now there is time and purpose.”
Girl Runner is a story that is part historical, based on “The Matchless Six” women who represented Canada in track and field at the 1928 Olympics. However, the character itself is original and the story takes us on a mysterious adventure that focuses on the dedicated pursuit of passion. It is the story of a heroine that should not soon be forgotton.
“I refuse to do as I’m told, on principle.”
4 out of 5 Sukasa Stars
Girl Runner is published by House of Anansi Press Inc.