Thanks to this virtual running book club, I've added another line item to my goals for 2016: to read at least 1 book/month. That may sound easy enough, but as a single mom with a full time job and a penchant for binge-watching TV, 1 book a month is definitely a challenge for me. This month's selection:
I don't know what I expected from Diana Nyad's memoir, Find A Way, but I wasn't prepared for the amount of sadness I felt after reading her book. Thanks to Taking the Long Way Home for another awesome book club selection.
Diana Nyad has led a remarkably accomplished life filled with adventure, fame (although I'd never heard of her before this book), fortune and love. In her life she managed to live out those pie-in-the-sky pipe dreams of us regular folk: she was the daughter of well-to-do parents, eventually became an Olympian, then went on to set world records in swimming, became a TV correspondent on ABC's Wild World of Sports, traveled the world and rubbed elbows with all the movers and shakers of her time, had beautiful relationships/marriages with partners whom she still considers her closest friends. Pretty.freaking.incredible.
But all through those fascinating years of a life well-lived, she harbored an obsession to be the first person ever to swim from Cuba to America. (Does anyone else know that the swim had not already been done? Am I the only Clueless dork who thought that by now that swim had been done by a bajillion Cuban refugees? Huh.)
I was admittedly hooked right at the start, in Chapter 1, as she describes one of her five attempts to make the swim. As I read about the amount of preparation and coordination that had taken place in order to get her to Florida, it was beyond impressive. Kayakers (paddle crews working in shifts) paddling alongside her with electrified nets clipped underneath the kayaks to keep sharks at bay, shark divers prepared to jump in the water at the first sign of a shark, her escort boat holding her handlers, navigators, drivers, operations chief, doctors...an entire flotilla to get her to the other shore safely.
With every precaution taken, every unexpected obstacle foreseen and accounted for, there's no way she can fail. But she does. Again and again and again and again, year after year, until she finally makes it. While I literally shouted for joy and shed a tear or two when I read of her finally reaching Key West, I closed the book overwhelmed with feelings of profound sadness for Diana Nyad.
All through the book, almost every chapter, she writes or makes reference to the sexual abuse she suffered throughout her childhood and into her teenage years, by her own father, and her high school swim coach. It's not the actual abuse that made me sad, although sexual abuse is a horrible, unforgivable crime, but her accomplishments (and there were many and they were truly GREAT) to me, seemed laced with hurt, bitterness. I don't know what someone who suffers that kind of abuse should sound like, but in the end it just seemed like she would never be finished proving to herself that she was more than a victim of abuse, and that made me really sad.
I feel terrible about critiquing someone who's suffered this type of abuse, but that's honestly how this book made me feel. I wanted to be inspired by Diana, but her determination to BE someone bordered on OCD in such a way that I could never emulate, nor would I ever want to, and in the end I just couldn't relate to her.
Still, I absolutely thought this was a great read, and as far as memoirs go, few people are as accomplished as Diana Nyad.