This month marks the kick off of the Taking the Long Way Home Running Book Club. Thanks to Wendy for hosting! Be sure to check out her link up for other thoughts on this book and others.
This month’s book is Honey, Do You Need a Ride by Jennifer Graham. She’s a journalist, columnist and editor with a predilection for farm animals and you can check out more from her here on her website. Also check out Wendy’s interview with her that posted this week as part of the book review link up (here). As a fan of Another Mother Runner, I was intrigued to see that she contributed an essay to the newly released Tales from Another Mother Runner and that she served as copy editor for that book. Knowing she’s officially part of the Mother Runner tribe makes me a little more inclined to forgive some of the things in the tone of Honey that rubbed me a little wrong.
Let’s go ahead and get the tone thing out of the way, because that’s the thing that I (and most of the negative comments on Goodreads and Amazon) found a little off-putting about this book. “Fat” is a really loaded word for a lot of us, no matter where we are on the weight spectrum, and as someone who has been heavier than most, it can rankle to hear someone who weighs something you’d have killed to see on the scale for ages called themselves “fat.” Is that fair? No. She has as much right to see herself as fat as anyone and I think the issues of identity as a runner and as a woman and as a “fat” runner are one of the more interesting themes of this book. However, no matter how much I intellectually agree it’s interesting and everyone is entitled to their own self perception, I’ll be honest with you guys and say that it made some little part of me irk every time I read it. There’s a line between self-deprecating and self-disparaging and I think there are a lot of times it strays too far into the disparaging realm. As someone who has struggled a lot with body image, this can be hard to read. I confess there’s a little voice in my head that says “If that’s what you think of you at your size, you must think I’m truly disgusting.” I appreciated her thoughtful response to the question of readers response to her “fat” label in the interview with Wendy. It’s definitely a really loaded issue. If you’re sensitive to that, consider yourself warned.
That being said, I wouldn’t let that put you off of reading this book because it’s funny and an interesting discussion of running from the perspective of someone who feels like they aren’t the typical runner. Really, don’t we all feel that way at some point or another in running? Or maybe every day almost three years into it (in my case)? 🙂
There are so many descriptions of the running inner monologue and experiences she’s had (like the fear of running shorts, which I myself still don’t wear to run for exactly the fear of creeping that she describes!) that I could have written myself. Her description of the first run as the “bravest thing” she ever did is absolutely how I still think of that first run, years and many pounds ago. That girl may have run thirty seconds at a time as opposed to the 8-9 miles I’ll run today, but she ran pouring sweat and heaving for breath regardless of her poor gear and fat rolls. She was amazing. That feeling Ms Graham describes of accomplishment and a sense of “clean” after a run is absolutely why I keep running (and thanks to her for putting a name to part of that sensation – clean is exactly right, weird as it is).
I could have also written the response to the humiliating interlude she describes with a teacher who advises her to lose weight because “It really does affect what people think of you.” The adult in me wants to throttle that teacher. The teenager in me would have absolutely run to my locker for a candy bar.
There are moments in the book that are absolutely hilarious, like the escaped donkeys, and moments that are absolutely heartbreaking, like the collapse of her marriage. She is definitely deft with words and the reading of these essays goes very quickly. This is a series of essays as much as a single narrative, so it is easy to dip in and out to read whenever you need a laugh or to know that you aren’t alone in this runner tribe. That’s the beauty of running – we all fit in somewhere, no matter how we see ourselves, no matter our speed and no matter our size. Jennifer Graham is definitely part of the tribe and I was tickled for her at the end of the book when she describes the thrill she got at the question “Are you Jennifer Graham the runner?” She is. We are all “the runner,” no matter how we see ourselves in comparison to others and that is a beautiful thing.
Thanks to Wendy for hosting this book club link up! Check out her review of the book here, along with the others in the link up. I always love having an excuse to read and write about one of my great loves, books. 🙂 I need to go update my Goodreads review with an abbreviated version of this review and add next month’s book about the Boston Marathon (Hal Higdon 4:09:53) to my library list.
What questions would you ask the author of this book if you had the chance? Personally, I’d like to know if her perception of her body has improved over time. While it takes practice and some days are better than others, I do feel like in general running helps me appreciate my body for what it is now rather than loathing my ever-present lumps and bumps.
Have a great Saturday everyone! I hope you have weather nice enough to sit on a deck chair with a good book sometime today. 🙂