Greatness: The Bondwoman’s Narrative

I couldn’t believe I was holding it, procured so easily from the public library: “The only known novel by a female African-American slave, and quite possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere,” read the cover jacket of The Bondwoman’s Narrative. Harvard Professor Henry Gates, Jr. who laid hold of the original 300-page handwritten manuscript launched an extraordinary quest to unmask the pseudonym of Hannah Crafts. Taking the clues he left, Professor Gregg Hecimovich from Winthrop University located the novelist in history at the end of an assiduous ten-year pursuit. Hannah Bond was the mulatto house slave who fled a North Carolina plantation disguised as a man and lived to tell her story cast in part fiction.

BondwomanI have always felt a pull toward the African-American odyssey of slavery. The female slave experienced double jeopardy not only for her race but also for her sexual vulnerability. I beckon to light the invisible greatness of a woman who made her way out of bondage with pen as she did with her feet.

TIMELINE
To authenticate and date the book, Dr. Gates consulted experts of historical documents. The characteristics of the paper, binding, handwriting, the iron-gall ink that had been popular until 1860, the style of the narrative were some of the elements they studied. A sedulous search among federal census records turned up the “Mr. Wheeler” whom Bond had served. In 1855 John Hill Wheeler enjoyed more fame than he had sought in government when word got out that his slave Jane Johnson had run away. Hannah describes how she found herself filling the vacancy. So the manuscript would have been drafted after 1855. I was captivated by the rigorous intricacy of the literary archeology.

Dr. Gates reports the observations of the keenest scholars in slave literature, the cause for their excitement over this particular self-authenticating text: “Hannah Crafts writes the way we can imagine black people talked to – and about – one another when white auditors were not around, and not the way abolitionists thought they talked, or black authors thought they should talk or wanted white readers to believe they talked. This is a voice that we have rarely, if ever, heard before…For Crafts, slaves are always, first, and last, human beings, ‘people’ as she frequently put it.” (Gates’ preface to the novel)

LITERACY
How did Hannah learn to read and write? She enjoyed her first secret reading lessons from an elderly white couple until the meetings were aborted. Dr. Joe Nickell, a historical investigator, paid “close attention to Crafts’ level of diction, the scope of her vocabulary…the degree of familiarity with other texts, or literacy, that she reflects in word choice, metaphors, analogies, epigraphs, and allusions to other words, concluding that she had the [modern equivalent] of an eleventh-grade education.” She evidently had taken liberties with John Wheeler’s private eclectic library. The plantation also housed students from a neighborhood finishing school. In a news radio interview, Hecimovich said, “Bond would have been listening and waiting on the young ladies who were boarding at the Wheeler family plantation while they were practicing…and she would have intuited, like other slaves we have record of, when she came to write her own stories. She could tell her story in the way that she heard the other stories.” (What does this say, incidentally, about the impact of quality literature upon listening children?) She has a beautiful, bold hand in the word selection and painting of imagery: “The clear cold sunshine glancing down the long avenue of elms…” While Hannah’s multisyllabic words [magnanimity, obsequious] tell of a rich bibliodiet, the many misspellings [meloncholy, inseperable] reveal the struggles of one who was self-taught. The novel was printed with the spelling errors and revisions Hannah had made intact, offering a precious glimpse of the subnarrative where writers play out choices in the birthing of a tale. Scholars thrill to have broken new ground in the landscape of antebellum literature. Gates explains, “To be able to study a manuscript written by a black woman or man, unedited, unaffected, unglossed, unaided by even the most well-intentioned or unobtrusive editorial hand, would help a new generation of scholars to gain access to the mind of a slave in an unmediated fashion heretofore not possible.”

DEPRECATION
Hannah draws a distinction between house and field slave, one of class and levels of degradation. It is when she is forced to marry into the squalor behind the Wheeler home that she decides to flee. “Accused of a crime of which I was innocent…most horrible of all doomed to association with the vile, foul, filthy inhabitants of the huts, and condemned to receive one of them for my husband my soul actually revolted with horror unspeakable…” (p. 205) The relative advantages she enjoyed as a house negro and very light mulatto distill the institution of slavery to its unrelenting truth. Hannah wasn’t whipped to work faster under the sun, didn’t have to mind the hogs in their sty. But no matter how light her skin, she was a thing with no license to go where she chose, wear what she wanted, say what she thought. The day she woke to was not hers. She got out of a bed she did not own to meet the needs and demands of another. Why would slavers think she had intellect, talent, feelings, a soul? Hannah was sold and bought, had no say under whose roof she ended up. “No one ever spoke of my father or mother, but I soon learned what a curse was attached to my race, soon learned that the African blood in my veins would forever exclude me from the higher walks of life. That toil unremitted unpaid toil must be my lot and portion, without even the hope or expectation of any thing better.” (p. 6) And even house slaves were not immune to the prospect of torture, rape, or murder. Hannah recounts the tale of a beloved nurse of the master’s son who, after begging for mercy, chose to suffer rather than drown her dog. Woman and pet were gibbeted on iron loops for six days with no food or water, making it through a fierce storm that only revived them to agony. A drop of black blood — and you were no better off than a dog. The establishment of slavery ironically did not discriminate between the classes extant in the world of slaves. Hannah writes of a man who agreed to part with his young chattel for a handsome amount of money: “He reck[on]ed not that she was a woman of delicate sensibilities and fine perfections – she was a slave, and no more that was all to him.” (p.82)

FREEDOM
The act of running away, of plunging into the harsh vicissitudes of threat and want, is obviously a bravery all its own. What impresses me as much are the battles Hannah won first in the deepest places of self. She was bold enough to envision not only her escape but well before, to have broken through the low, hard ceiling that kept slaves from the daylight of dreams. Taking the words that had come alive to her on paper, she would compose a novel that revealed truth. I find the vast verbal blueprint she was able to draw up in her mind astounding. It appears Hannah had not been “writing this for herself,” as “it was not an internal sort of story [in which she grows or changes] which makes me want to think of her imagining a public for it.” (Preface, lxiv) The pen at work was a soaring of the mind, a declaration of will. She did not heed the holes in her learning. A full imagination, insight, and instinct for the framing of words would do. Her sense of worth, not mollifiable, told her she was capable of attempting what no hand of woman had as of yet and that she could secure readers. This anchor is what impelled her escape, for “rebellion would be virtue, that duty to myself and my God actually required it, and that whatever accidents or misfortunes might attend my flight nothing could be worse than what threatened my stay.” (p. 206) I love the duty to herself. Her body, her spirit, her dignity were worth protecting, and she would see to it.

COST
Some things are not worth fighting for. “Marriage like many other blessings I considered to be especially designed for the free, and something that all the victims of slavery should avoid as tending essentially to perpetuate that system…I had spurned domestic ties not because my heart was hard, but because it was my unalterable resolution never to entail slavery on any human being.” (pp. 206-207) Hannah decides it the wiser course for slaves to forgo certain pleasures. The sweetest of them – creaturely comfort and family – promise in the grander scheme only to embitter their own existence, feed the very beast of their anguish. So how far do you go to protect your child? Hannah describes the response of a young black woman forced to sell her children by their father, the master of the house. “Her eyes had a wild phrenzied look, and with a motion so sudden that no one could prevent it, she snatched a sharp knife…and stabbing the infant threw it with one toss into the arms of its father. Before he had time to recover from his astonishment she had run the knife into her own body, and fell at his feet bathing them in her blood. She lived only long enough to say that she prayed God to forgive her for an act dictated by the wildest despair.” (pp.177-178) This despair was no drama out of a writer’s fancy. Hannah likely knew of the publicized infanticide of 1856. Margaret Garner was fleeing a Kentucky plantation with her husband, their baby and two-year-old daughter Mary, and his parents when she was pursued by her master. Margaret slit Mary’s throat with a knife to spare her the waiting travail. It was a doomed attempt to solve the lesser of two impossible evils, and Margaret’s act of desperation articulates Hannah’s own conviction to refuse helotry another generation of victims. So accustomed to the relative comforts of the wealthiest nation in the world, I can’t imagine what would compel me to extinguish my son’s breath.

GREATNESS
To run away is to face the real possibility of torture and death, but the road before holds out the irresistible hope of autonomy and birthright of dignity. To stay or go back is to assure oneself of a living death. The Underground Railroad saw many, though not enough, lives to freedom. But literacy liberates the mind and creates its own opportunity of voice. The depths to which Bond pursued her art yielded a remarkable achievement. She reached for access to that forbidden code of the written word we call reading, and went on to add her own undimmed testimony of good, evil, and the true to the dark pages of the human heart we call history.

Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers, Part 2: The Luxury of Art

So the last time I called, it was to ask the meaning of art. This time I want to talk about its source and sustenance. Would you help me through my ambivalence on this question, follow as I st r u gg le? Thinking over the things my mother worked to procure for me – shelter, food, education – I noticed a glaring contrast to what you can find me busy reaching for. My writing. Mom was preoccupied with making rent and putting rice on the table. I am often lost in my search for the perfect word – whether I’m running around like a headless chicken or slogging through kitchen duty and the lessons with my son. Through it all I never waste a minute, too many things calling for my attention. So it is with moms, and I remember my mother flying everywhere all the time. But it was a different quality of time, a different meaning to it, between Mom’s and mine. Maybe one day I will write a book on the challenges that are my normal. It is on the soft bed of middle-class existence, though, that I do my battles, not the hard ground Mom walked. Would I pursue my writing in her worn-out shoes? I can take nothing for granted. I have mused at times that my world can be pulled from under me any moment. I’ve asked myself if I could keep up A Holistic Journey if I found myself a single parent without means. No. At least not with the time and fierce love I’ve poured into it. If a roof over my son’s head and food in his belly were no given but necessities that I had to clock in 12 hours outside the home for, I’d be foolish to consider my art in any space between the pressure. I would marshal all my resourcefulness and energy to meet my child’s basic needs today and prepare for his tomorrow. Survival trumps all, transforms many desires into nonessentials. Which leads me to conclude that art is a luxury borne out of class. Only now, 20 years after the required reading of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, am I able to write the paper with understanding.

PurseSo what do you make of Woolf’s famous precept that women need money and a room of their own to write? Unbroken time and space to think and hear herself. Woolf was insisting upon a level playing field in reaction to the socioeconomic disparities between men and women throughout the centuries that had impacted their art. It was men, and therefore male writers, who published readily. Women couldn’t get in the game a hundred years ago, let alone attempt to write through the demands of family life. Woolf wrote, “Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom.” Freedom was one of many things my mother did not have. Financial, material, intellectual. She certainly had no room of her own in a one-bedroom apartment. Though I am not made of money, I still enjoy a feast of options on the food, toys, learning materials I can get my son. I will also fight for the freedom to teach him exactly as I wish if need be. Against this backdrop I exercise my intellect in the luxury to imagine and wonder beyond the walls of my home, and create. I feel secure enough that the walls will not give way. There was no such thing as self-actualization for my mother. No time, no wherewithal. Because my starting point in the discussion was this financial duress stamped into my consciousness, the joy I take in my art feels like hedonism. Now Woolf wasn’t arguing for luxury as she was that money and time be staple provisions for women as they were for men. She resonates with the wild, helpless artist in me, of course. My words are not wine but water, air. I would thirst and gasp if I couldn’t write. Not a day goes by where I don’t begrudge the clock my due, petition the day the time to myself.

But isn’t the classic starving artist single? Or childless (as luck would have it), able to stalk his dream at the encouragement of an understanding, optimistic spouse? Stephen King and the rest who created successfully through the stress of providing for young children seem to disprove the archetype. Yet while King helped with the kids, he did write in his lunch hour at work – outside the home. And though he was often broke, he had a college degree. I grew up watching extremely talented musicians busking in the subways of New York. Street art and brilliance out of the ghettos make it an interesting question, doesn’t it? The circumstances most hospitable to art. Of course it’s ridiculous to say the poor cannot birth what is powerfully beautiful. All over the world we have evidence to the contrary; poets and novelists who wrote in the trenches and drew upon raw experience to bring the power of reality to their art. But don’t time and the sense of stability that money can buy give you not only a room but space in your spirit to conceive things bigger than your life? If art keeps your heart beating, do you need money in the bank to live more fully? Turning our attention to virtual art: anyone can open a blog account and not all bloggers are professing artists. But do those of you who are serious about your art out here consider yourself above the stated lower class where you live? Money is no panacea and some of the richest people are the most unfulfilled. The question is how sustainable art is and whether it can thrive where one’s pocketbook fits only so many coins and groceries and dreams.

The Invisible Woman Who Whipped Her Son

PleaseLookMomLast year I picked up Please Look After Mom, an international bestseller penned by a South Korean novelist. The lackluster title didn’t entice, and I found some parts overstated. But the well-painted portrait of a mother who goes missing redeemed the read plenty. I found that she stands for the substance of virtually every family in every culture since the dawn of time. I wanted to look with you into the heart of the Invisible Woman.

So-nyo, an elderly mother of four grown children, vanishes in the Seoul subways. Her husband hurries ahead in the crowd, impatient as he’s always been with her when walking, and in a moment of disbelief the subway door shuts their hands apart and the car pulls away with the man. The novel is a rotary of voices – of the children and husband who search for her in despair while thinking back in shame at the woman they never had really looked at.

Hyong-chol, the eldest child, remembers a time when his father brought into their village shack a woman to live with him – and the family. Naturally, So-nyo left the house. Trying to buy her way into the hearts of the kids, the Other Woman carefully packed their lunch, even to top it with the fried egg that was a luxury back then. Hyong-chol not only didn’t eat it, but made his siblings bury their lunchbox. The Other Woman went on to buy them new containers that kept their rice warm. The son wouldn’t renounce the food strike.

   Mom came to school to find him.  It was about ten days after the woman had come to live with them.
   “Mom!” Tears spilled from his eyes.
   Mom led him to the hill behind the school. She pulled up the legs of his pants to reveal his smooth calves, grabbed a switch, and hit them.
   “Why aren’t you eating? Did you think I would be happy if you didn’t eat?”
   Mom’s thrashing was harsh. He had been upset that his siblings weren’t listening to him, and now he couldn’t understand why Mom was whipping him. His heart brimmed with resentment. He didn’t know why she was so angry.
   “Are you going to take your lunch? Are you?”
   “No!”
   …Instead of running away, he stood still, silent, and suffered her blows.
   “Even now?”
   The redness bloomed into blood on his calves.
   “Even now!” he yelled.
   Finally, Mom tossed the switch away. “God, you brat! Hyong-chol!” she said, embracing him and bursting into sobs. Eventually, she stopped, and tried to persuade him. He had to eat, she said, no matter who cooked the meals.

Even in the second reading last week, my eyes smarted. Am not endorsing child abuse. But my heart swelled with understanding of So-nyo’s pain and the desperate attempt of a mother to get her child to eat – though it meant that she let the Other Woman feed him. It is one of the most telling moments in human drama where, embracing insult to injury, a mother physically tries to force her son to an act that will reinforce his father’s galling unfaithfulness. She swallows her dignity for the well-being of her child.

This is just one snapshot of her invisibility, where So-nyo chooses to go under. I’m not praising her for being a doormat beneath the man she had served with nothing but devotion. In fact, she returns home to chase him and the Woman out of her house. But part of the attraction the book holds for readers in Korea and the greater world is that So-nyo seems to be Everyone’s Mom. Please allow the sweeping generalization that bears exceptions. The protagonist was so recognizable: I saw much of my own mother in her and could pull up a good many other moms and grandmothers who could have replaced her name. Hers is a life of sacrifice from the day she marries and the self-renunciation, a silent one. Not once does she complain – I think because it doesn’t occur to her to. Interestingly, I don’t recall her ever saying, “I love you” to any of her kids. Calloused hands freeze while washing the offerings of the garden, the clothes, and dishes in the winter water. Unflagging hands pickle food for the seasons ahead while dancing over pots and fire to contrive the next meal. In fact, she has an awful lot in common with the women out of Little House on the Prairie. In reading aloud some of the stories to my son and husband last year, I tried to figure out what was so familiar about the Prairie series when my life has been so unworthily comfortable by comparison. One day it hit me that the untiring work of the parents, especially of the mothers, mirrored the call to unsung exertion that many Asian women answer when they have children. But ethnocentric I’m not. A lot of us would see So-nyo in our own mother, aunt, neighbor, or grandmother. She is not attractive, and goes around with a towel over her eyes for all the sweat. She is not a literal model but certainly a beautiful one. She has always been there for her family, receives her husband with ready food when he slinks back from an entire season of idle adultery. But she is missing from the family radar. When she actually disappears, the family unravels both individually and as a unit.

Two years ago, I asked a friend if he thought he appreciated his mother, who raised five boys. He didn’t begin to, he answered, until he had his own. And pointing to my boy, added that Tennyson will come nowhere near appreciating the cooking let alone the rest of the mothering until he also becomes a dad. After having my own family, I have nursed shame for not helping my mother enough in the long immigrant years she juggled work, cooking, and housekeeping, all the while somehow keeping present and active in my schooling. When I was in Elementary, Mom sewed for the garment factory. One time, flying off the lightning force of the Singer machine, the entire needle sunk into her finger. I remember her rushing to the doctor, trying to cup the dripping blood with the other hand. Even then she did not complain, nor has she in the days following: the needle is still in her finger. We can never thank Mom enough. Because by the time you’re a parent who sees your mother’s hands in your own labor, your own family becomes priority. Grace runs down – not up. The love of a mother will outdo and outpace her child’s, and the debt you owe her is one you pay forward.

Solitary Confinement, a Window into Life

A good friend sent me this essay, saying, “Made me so sad. For the man he killed, for the family who suffered and for this man behind bars with a great gift who could have done so much.”

The story is not for the faint-hearted and it’s not something you read everyday.  It’s longer than the speed and fullness of my days normally allow.  So I don’t expect you to read the prison essay all the way through.  You don’t have to, to understand the thoughts that follow.
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I’m not saying Blake doesn’t deserve punishment.  I did always consider – even as a high schooler – LIFE in prison to be worse than death.  Make it solitary and you have the worst form of torture – even apart from the animal conditions described.  The glimpse of this unthinkable existence got me thinking about the basic things that make us human.

“Life in the box is about an austere sameness that makes it difficult to tell one day from a thousand others. Nothing much and nothing new ever happen to tell you if it’s a Monday or a Friday, March or September, 1987 or 2012. The world turns, technology advances, and things in the streets change and keep changing all the time. Not so in a solitary confinement unit, however…Indeed, there is probably nothing different in SHU now than in SHU a hundred years ago, save the headphones.”

CHANGE
Our very body proclaims that life is change. We live in constant flux, each of us a sentient network of innumerous biochemical activity, electromagnetic charges, neurotransmission – all in collaboration even to help you with the simple and sophisticated task of reading this thought.  About every four months, a red blood cell expires and is displaced by a new one. A cease in modulation in a major part of our structure or the whole would mean paralysis or death. There is a coherence to the changes. The bodily vicissitudes are not random but often follow cycles.  Of time, weather, season. For the person is a microcosmic embodiment of the universe. There is the planetary orbit.  The revolutions.  And we are governed by a circadian rhythm. Whether or not we choose to rise and set with the sun, our organ systems each heed their own clock of peak functioning in keeping with the tide of day and night.  The woman’s body is a candid avatar of the Cycle.

PROGRESS
When change propels us forward, it is one for the better – to higher consciousness and goals, a broader base of knowledge and achievement. I think of my husband who is ever pushing the frontiers of his own learning, creating the next place to get to. The next instrument to craft, the new Samba beat to teach. While setting fresh goals for his son. If we devolved, we wouldn’t live our human potential. One of the most tragic sights is the rich, talented, and beautiful executing their own ruin, squandering faculty and resources on addictions. When, on perfectly good legs, they turn and walk away from the horizon of promise. It is pitiful because this forward movement is a capacity particular to man, as history shows. Mineral, plant, animal remain their characteristic matter and energy over time. But giraffes over two thousand years ago did not learn to build fire or revamp their lifestyle by the industrial revolution. Human energy can carry a powerfully constructive, creative momentum.

MEANING
Where we take pause in the movement to recalibrate, we gather meaning from where we’ve been.  Solitary confinement becomes a senseless existence because the days that have passed there bear no such thing as progress. The Box is a vacuum devoid of virtually all organic markers of change, of direction. There is no purpose to breathing – only the death grip on sanity.  Hope is a picture we paint of a better place we imagine for ourself, a new place to go. It provides meaning for the present and future. But there is no hope in vacuity.

We don’t draw meaning in isolation but against a communal tapestry where we locate our own thread that contributes to the greater design. Which takes us to the most salient characteristic of solitary confinement. Why is our social nature of significance?

COMMUNICATION
Even if you don’t believe we bear the image of God in a way plants and animals do not, you have to listen to what our communicative capacity says about personhood. We certainly can talk to ourself, but communication is at its most meaningful when it happens in a social context, with someone who gives us audience. The fact that we can speak is its own witness that we are born into a world where we can expect others to tune into us.  Now, while animals have a language, our innate need to express takes us more deeply and richly into articulation of complex structure and substance and medium. Not only speech, but also art, allow us to mark our personal identity and broad humanness. I express myself through the writing and my music. Others paint, dance. God is known as the Living Word by which He spoke all things into life. We bear this divine image in the ways we speak our verbal, visual, physical art. In the artistic procreation, we do more than transmit energy, breathe, even learn. We birth something of beauty.

Prayer is the highest plane of articulation. Throughout the ages the peoples have continued to pray. That is, to utter fear, hope, joy to a God who is invisible. The drive to communicate at the most human level impels a faith that Someone hears. And cares. What completes our humanity is a relationship with the Deity.

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But still the noise was incredible, a thunderous cacophony of insanity, sleep impossible. Inmates lost in the throes of lavalike rage firing philippics at one another for even reasons they didn’t know, threatening to kill one another’s mommas, daddies, even the children, too. Nothing is sacred in SHU. It is an environment that is so grossly abnormal, so antithetical to normal human interactions, that it twists the innerds of men all around who for too long dwell there.

In a box frozen in time and consequently no hope for change, the one thing the prisoners in confinement have is the insatiable need to express themselves. The only way they can is through the pressure valve of helpless rage. One could hardly feel human there.

A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight [Thoughts on Women and Suffering]

I’ve always been drawn to African-American history.  This novel I picked up four years ago repaints the slave culture of Louisiana that was new to me.  Something struck me about the half-white, half-black protagonist.  I wrote the author, a writing professor at the University of Riverside 20 minutes away.  Here are the excerpts of my email and of her reply:

It struck me that Moinette could have been Asian.  There is something singular about the poignancy of Korean drama.  The premodern Korean woman in particular was literally long-suffering.  It was not only the incredible afflictions Moinette endured and navigated but her taciturn response, her posture that could have set her on an island on the other side of the world in Asia.  I found it so interesting that her measured narrative and matter-of-factness in all the adversity were culturally familiar to me.  Her voice.  Was it the unremitting suffering that evened the voice, the hopes?  Or that she was a woman?  Or that she was not white? 

I did not take to the style too much, especially in the beginning.  Fewer clipped sentences would’ve smoothed out the reading – at least for me.  I continued beyond the first chapter because I wanted to finish what I’d started, but from the point of Pelagie’s murder I was hooked and found myself moved by the last of the pages long after the reading. 

Thank you for the enlightening and stirring journey!

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I’m glad you wrote.  I think those are some excellent parallels with the particular suffering of Asian women, of so many women of color.

Born To Run by Christopher McDougall

It was my husband who got me on the book three years ago.  He couldn’t help read aloud sections to me.  It wasn’t only about the running (the word alone bored and deterred me).  He said there was all this stuff about natural health, with mention of the chia seeds I prepared for the family.

P.E. was my least favorite class when I was growing up and I never could walk long, let alone run, for the flat feet.  Not an athletic bone in this body — and I couldn’t put the book down.  Holistic Husband’s way of putting it: “Makes you want to go out and run.”  The various stories of the runners – their persistence to an impossible goal, the freedom they discovered in the laboring – inspired me to get back on my feet.  Two miles is nothing to most people, but learning how to run efficiently helped me pull off this miracle for starters.  I also gained a vision for the heights of activeness we could encourage our son toward – not that he has to run ultras.

Some beautiful occasions in the book:
~ The writer stumbles on the Tarahumara of Mexico, an ancient tribe renowned for their long-distance running and longevity.  What moved me is how the Indians run not to win races but for the unmoderated fun and joy of it.  They are all there, in the moment. A reminder of how to live.
~ For the first time in history, a motley crew of American and Indian runners gather at table on Tarahumara ground the eve of an epic race.  It is the penultimate scene before the climactic end to the story.  You feel the magic of the camaraderie, how simple and profound their fellowship and kindness toward one another on the cusp of their fierce inaugural competition.
~ The two chief contenders from opposite sides of the border, Scott and Arnulfo, find that they run exactly the same.  On a practice sprint, they parallel up a rocky trail. Twin happy, powerful strides conjoin from two different eras.

I wasn’t crazy about the style in the starting chapters – a bit fragmented.  But finishing the nail-biter of a race and closing the book, I wanted more.