104-year-old Aganetha Smart is a former (and fictional) Olympic athlete now alone and forgotten by history. When two young strangers appear and take Aganetha on a spree away from the nursing home, memories of her long life come flooding back.
Girl Runner is part coming of age story, part historical fiction. Much of it takes place in the 1920s and 1930s, centering around the first time female athletes were allowed to run the 800 meters in the Olympics. This coincides with Aganetha’s decision to leave her family home in the country to train and find independence in the city. The novel hops around in time, with episodes of Aganetha’s past alternating with the present as we grow closer and closer to learning the identities of the two young people ushering her around.
To me, these shifts in time felt a little awkward. I also grew weary of the not-so-subtle hints of things to come. That being said, I was attached to Aganetha’s spirited character from the beginning. I loved seeing her buck the social norms of her time at every stage of her life. I also felt her frustration as she fought through confusion and frailty in her old age. I found that I always wanted to hear the rest of her story.
There’s a great twist at the end. I know, I know…of course there was! But here’s the thing: I knew the twist was coming, I could feel it. But it wasn’t at all what I expected it to be, it wasn’t out of place, and it wrapped things up so nicely.