The Boys In The Boat...A review.
I read this book mostly on a plane ride back from Seattle and in my bed before I feel asleep for a couple nights. This led to many, many dreams about Germany.
I loved this story. I knew absolutely nothing about rowing going into it, but the author didn't require previous understanding of the sport. He explained everything in way that I'm sure excited rowers but also informed less knowledgeable readers. In fact, he made me deeply appreciate the sport. As an athlete who competed on teams my entire life, I feel like I know a little bit about working well with others. About communication, healthy competition, sacrifice, and sharing a common goal. But in rowing, those things are highlighted in completely different ways.
The bulk of communication is shouldered by one man: the tiny coxswain. There is competition to get on the lead boat because there are only 9 seats, each performing very different functions. There is sacrifice when you have more power left in you and you want to row faster, but your team is holding a pace and your extra effort would throw it off. And the common goal is finding your "swing," a euphoric moment of absolute synchronicity. It all sounds very difficult, doesn't it?
Daniel James Brown developed the story in such a way that you're constantly wanting to finish the chapter, rooting for the Washington rowing teams to win their race. It was a story of a time in our nation when athletics seemed superfluous, when in fact they were very necessary. Brown said that in a very indirect and understated way simply by writing this.
I've rambled. To say it quicker: I loved the book. It's an excellent story written by an author who really cared about it and took his time with it. I appreciate the thread of patience that runs through the telling of these years. Read it, you won't regret it.
Who is this book for?
Athletes: Sure thing.
People from the PNW: I'm sure.
Hipsters: Do hipsters like the Olympics? Or sporting events? I mean, I'm guessing not.
People who don't find value in sports: Noooooope. (But you should read it because maybe it will change your mind.)
What does this book say?
Finally ... I realized that "the boat" was something more than just the shell of 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.
The afternoon workouts left him exhausted and sore but feeling cleansed, as if someone had drubbed out his soul with a stiff wire brush.
The ability to yield, to bend, to give way, to accommodate, he said, was sometimes a source of strength in men as well as in wood, so long as it was helmed by inner resolve and by principle.