Published April 2015
Trade paperback, 254 pages
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani
There were a few things that attracted me to this book. The first is its cover. It's original and creative, with two walls of graffiti and the handlebars of a bike at its center ready to ride through it. It's just perfect for this book. The first thing my 11 year-old son said when he looked at it was, "How many people can you find in the picture, Mom." He had already explored and dissected that cover and made me take a closer look. The back cover too has more of these images.
The second thing that attracted me to this book is its theme, that of a boy who strives to become an Olympic para-athlete. I've worked in the field of special needs with children who wore prostheses to school and had to overcome the challenges of adapting. So I was eager to see this explored in the story.
This book is unlike any I've read. The writing style was somewhat philosophical, which took some getting used to and it was also translated from Portuguese, with some of the expressions at times not properly translated. The story is told in vignettes through the point of view of three characters: Mario, an executive who organizes Olympic competitions around the world; Elizabeth, his wife who gave up her career to be a stay-at-home mom, and Andre, their son who was born without feet.
It's not clear what Andre's condition is exactly until half-way through the book, when he begins to train as a cyclist. It was at this point that the book began to get me emotionally invested because we get a better picture of how this boy affected not only the lives of his parents, but his own vision of determination and accomplishment.
It's clear that Cassitas has a vast knowledge of Olympic history because facts were peppered throughout the book, many of which I remembered from having watched the Games throughout my life. The story spans a period of 30 years told from the cities in which the Olympic Games took place in this time period. We learn of the monumental task of the preparation involved, both pros and cons, in organizing this event. I enjoyed the setting of Curitiba, as I have always wanted to visit Brazil.
Elizabeth was a character I could relate to. She was a devoted mom who loved her son and never complained of the long absences of a husband who travelled the world. She worked hard to give Andre a secure and happy childhood, and Andre grew up thinking he could do anything because his parents thought he could. This is what I believe forged his confidence.
There were two quotes from this book that made me reflect. The first was from Albert Einstein who said, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." How true! The second quote is from the Italian para-cyclist Alessandro Zanardi who said, "You shouldn't chase utopia; but if you keep your eyes on the horizon, you'll find happiness right around the corner."
Although it took me awhile to get into this book, I found it contained gems of reflections on life and succeeding. I loved bicycling in my teen years and riding against the wind helped me cope with all the angst of adolescence, so I could relate to Andre and his love for cycling.
This is a unique book, different, contemplative and full of the love of sports, as a means to challenge yourself. Cassitas has succeeded in bringing the world of para-athletes to my attention and I will be watching as the Games take place in Rio in 2016.
Note: This book is rated G.
To read more reviews, please visit Cassia Cassitas' page on iRead Book Tours.
"In my mind, words came in strides. They aligned themselves in arguments that were ready for combat after rebelling themselves - and that was just inkling. Where was my certainty to support the new image? And where were my emotions, with their brushes to bring color to life?"
Born in the interior of the state of Paraná, Cassia Cassitas accumulated various degrees throughout her career in Information Technology. The author of three novels, her texts convey ideas accumulated amidst the smell of coffee plantations, shoe factories, and the technology of the 20th century. These texts deal with life-altering episodes, in a path lit by a harmonious blend of memories and imagination.
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Disclosure: Thanks to the author for sending me this book for review. I was not told how to rate or review this product.