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  • Writer's picturePhyllis H. Moore

Review of The Boys in the Boat

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is not the genre of book I would usually read, but on a road trip with my husband, I suggested the audible version because it had good reviews and might appeal to both of us. Before the author had entered Judy’s house to see her dying father, Joe, Brown had hit the swing. The incredible story of the 1936 Berlin Olympic rowing team from the United States plies the reader with history of our country that parallels many social and political issues facing Americans today.

Entwined in the history of the University of Washington’s coaching staff, shell builder, and crew, is the story of our country, the families and individuals who did and did not support the members of the crew, and the hardships of the working class in the American West. The determination of the coaches and crew to create a living entity that could breathe and think as one to accomplish the unlikely is a metaphor for all that is missing in our current society. We are not like the aspen, connected at a root system to all others like it, but currently more like stunned movie goers, fighting to find the exit in an engulfed theater. The men in the boat were selfless in their determination to function as ONE.

The nine young men in this story are characterized by Brown with all their strengths and flaws as they grow into one unbreakable unit to not only bond as one in the boat, but to triumph under Hitler’s critical gaze. We know the end before the story starts, but the best part is savoring the details, descriptions, emotions, and challenges that line the journey.

The long chapters, only nineteen in a 416 page book, are full of history, culture, and the language of a rowing crew. The reader is destined to learn something. I highly recommend this book, an excellent gift for anyone. The audible version is masterfully narrated by Edward Herrmann, a compelling, strong voice. There is also a young readers adaptation.

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