Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Gift - Book Review


Prior to unleashing this review (and in the spirit of full disclosure) I should mention that I have an unnatural love for books about running.  They really work for me, and I often find myself willing to overlook serious literary flaws when those flaws happen to be related to a subject I enjoy.  It was exactly that way with The Gift by Paul Maurer.

Maurer's book chronicles about a year in the life of Brett Rodgers, a collegiate runner in the U.S. striving to overcome personal demons that have prevented him from making full use of his immense natural talent.  The story revolves around his teammates, training, racing, and his relationship with a new flame and with the aforementioned demons.

Suffice to say that from a storyline perspective the book isn't earth shattering... not that you would expect it to be.  This is a story about running and runners (the people not the shoes) first and foremost.  There is easily enough drama in the events told to make for an entertaining yarn...

This is Maurer's first novel and it appears that it was self-published.  With this in mind it isn't too surprising that the writing is a little amateurish.  At first I found it off-putting and annoying - the dialogue especially was unnatural and clich├ęd.  As I progressed through the book it became less grating - almost as if the author's skills improved as he wrote.  Unfortunately, his editor, if there was one, did not improve much from page 1 - 247 - there were frequent typos and grammatical cock-ups that did the book no favours.

Any book about running had better contain some awesome racing scenes and this book delivered.  If Maurer isn't a runner I would be shocked - he described races, and the feeling of racing so well that I experienced heart rate increases from lap to lap....  These were by far the best passages in the book.

In the end I was sad to be finished.  It made me happy for Maurer.  All through the book I kept rooting not only for Brett (the protagonist) but for Paul (the author), I could sense the passion he had for the topic (and I bet he is a better runner than he is a writer) - I wanted him to "win" by writing a good book - and he did.

It's not going to be recognized by the folks handing out Pulitzers, but if you are a runner it will make you want to sign up for a local 5km race and run till it hurts, and that makes it a book worth reading. 

(As an aside....  what is up with the foot on the cover?  I spent a long time trying to figure out if it was an optical illusion or if the thing is deformed.  That is a BIG groove for the big toe....)

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