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Jul
25
2016

Purple Fig Club: The Boys in the Boat

I may be biased in my opinion since I picked this month's book, but I really loved it! I don't remember how I came across it at the end of last year when I was looking for reading options for our club, but I'm so glad I did.

I would never have thought I would've been so interested to read a book about college boys learning to row as a crew team, but the people that the story follows, the historical setting and yes, even the details about what rowing entails and what it physically does to a person, all made it a fascinating read. I hope you all enjoyed it too if you were able to get to it!

At first, I thought the historical setting would be the most interesting factor and it definitely was one crux of the story, but amazingly, I got even more lost in the back stories of the young men, particularly the main character Joe Rantz. The time they grew up in where the economy was suffering and they had basically nothing. In his case, not even family to rely on.

It amazes me how his future, at least in his eyes, hung on the thin thread of making this rowing team. I don't know anyone today who worked as hard as Rantz did to make money in between semesters and to become good enough to be chosen for the varsity, and finally, Olympic rowing team.

Another thing that grabbed me was the physicality of rowing. The insane demands it makes on a human body. And how rowing isn't just about the right set of skills, but also a cohesive team of people who can work in sync and trust each other. It gives me a lot more knowledge and respect for the sport!

One point of interest for me, as I mentioned to Sarah Beth when we got together for dinner, was that Hugh Laurie's father was one of the British Olympic rowers. I found that fascinating, as I had no idea, and I really like Laurie as an actor!

Likewise, I found it heartwarming that Joe & Joyce were high school sweethearts and stayed together until their last days. It was an incredibly beautiful love story.

By the time the book got to the part where they were actually rowing for the gold medal, I couldn't see how they were actually going to do it, even though the whole synopsis of the book is that they do. Haha!

Windblown lane, sick stroke, bad start ... I mean, did they even have a chance? It was utterly inspiring to me how they pulled through together in spite of everything. Just incredible!

I could go on and on about the book, but I'd rather leave some room for you all to add your thoughts and so I'll leave you with one of my favorite excerpts:

"But what Joe didn't yet know--what he wouldn't, in fact, fully realize until much later, when he and the other boys were becoming old men--was that every boy in the boat felt exactly the same that summer. Every one of them believed he was simply lucky to be rowing in the boat, that he didn't really measure up to the obvious greatness of the other boys, and that he might fail the others at any moment. Every one of them was fiercely determined not to let that happen."

I just find that so overwhelmingly beautiful. Not just because it reveals their humble natures, but also a life truth: that we often compare ourselves to others and find ourselves lacking, but many times, the people we are comparing ourselves to feel the reverse. It's both a lesson not to compare yourself to anyone else and also a perfect image of good boys who wanted to work hard, support their friends and do their best in everything.

Purple Fig Club: The Boys in the Boat
Copyright 2004-2017 Elizabeth Shiver