Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympics Reading

Hey, we can be topical with our recommendations!  I'm sure it's not hard to guess that Gianna and I are fans of Olympic sports (and "sports"--looking at you, skeet shooting).  There are a lot of text message conversations, such as this one from the women's gymnastics team competition:

Let's just say that I scrolled through quite a few conversations that even I'm not dumb enough to post online. Things to consider: the men's Italian archery team is not pretty, fencing is a ton of fun to watch, and Lizzie firmly resides on Team Phelps (as opposed to Team Lochte, mostly because of Ryan's interviewing skills and shoe fetish).

While we're objectifying the athletes and eating brownies, though, I realized that now would be the perfect time to talk about one of my favorite novels from a few years ago.  Swimming was Nicola Keegan's terrific debut novel, and it's the ideal read for the summer games.  This coming of age story follows Pip, an awkwardly built girl growing up in Kansas, about as far from the spotlights and media attention as a kid can get.  She's tall, she's flat, she has crazy big feet, and she's at that awkward age for girls.  Think Gianna in her post-Little Miss Mini-Maid stage.  Or Liz, from age nine until the present (Will you people EVER hit your growth spurts?  It's lonely up here).  Pip has a few friends and is in many ways just a girl growing up and attending Catholic school.  Then her father and sister are killed, and her mother retreats into herself, isolating Pip.  Redemption and escape come in the water.

Pip is a female Michael Phelps of a sort, finding quiet while churning through the water at record pace.  That awkward frame is ideal for this girl dolphin, and as she grows up, Pip becomes the sensation that a Phelps or Lochte or Natalie Coughlin or Missy Franklin personifies.  If fiction and Freud have taught us anything, though, it's that you can't run (swim) from your past forever.

Nicola Keegan
Nicola Keegan is a gifted writer, adding literary merit to an already engaging story and giving Pip a pitch perfect voice.  When Swimming first came out, The Boston Globe wrote, “Keegan’s energy jumps off the page. . . . Swimming is a wonderful coming-of-age story, a richly detailed account of a young woman channeling her rage, grief and insecurity into a passion to win. The voice Keegan has invented for Pip is sarcastic, thoughtful, elegant, irreverent.”  The New York Times called the book "gorgeous," and The Washington Post "marvelous."

Haven't read it yet?  Why wait?  You're already sitting around watching way too many hours of Olympic coverage, so why not dive in whole hog?  Also, Swimming makes a terrific book group pick.  There is plenty to discuss, as it's not just a sports book and not just a coming of age book and not just a death-of-a-parent book.  I'm firmly on Team Pip.

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