Last week, I started looking at summer reads with substance—books that challenge and entertain. This week’s review is of The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011):
Writers are sometimes surprised when their work strikes a particular chord with readers. A reader may see on the pages something that the author never realized was there, was only dimly aware of, or couldn’t anticipate.
For me, The Running Dream filled a need that author Wendelin Van Draanen likely never imagined. I decided to read this young adult novel after the Marathon Bombings.
This spring, my son and I went to see the start of theBoston Marathon. Later that day we learned of the bombings. Over the course of the next few weeks, we all heard about those who were injured—in particular those who lost limbs.
Van Draanen’s novel has nothing to do with terrorism, but it’s a great read for anyone coming to terms with the recent bombings.
Jessica, the novel’s main character, loses a leg below the knee in a bus-truck accident on the way to a track meet. She loves to run, and even sitting bereft in her hospital bed, her descriptions of what she was once able to do border on poetic:
Breathing the sweet smell of spring grass.
Sailing over dots of blooming clover.
Beating all the boys.
Van Draanen’s novel is a fine study in grit and determination, loss and recovery. For me, however, it was like a primer on what it is like to lose a limb and struggle up the slow road to mobility.
Jessica is a likeable narrator, so I was drawn into her story and followed each step along the way as she massages her stump, goes back to school, is fitted for a prosthetic, learns of her family’s struggles with insurance, and finally learns to run again.
The Running Dream is just as much or more about hope as it is about running. It makes me want to see the Boston Marathon again.