Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics brought me closer to my Seattle roots. My great grandparents, Lawrence and Marjorie Moore lived in Seattle during the late 1920s and 1930s, and my grandfather was born there the same year Joe Rantz, the central character of the book, began his career at the University of Washington.
Knowing some of the challenges my own great grandparents faced drew me to this story. Joe Rantz had an extraordinarily difficult childhood and young adulthood during a time when few had it easy. I hope the successes of Joe and his teammates brought smiles to Lawrence and Marjorie. I know much of Seattle flocked to support them during local races and hovered around radios when the team was as far away as New York or Germany.
The local crew team became a source of inspiration and pride for Seattle and the rest of the state of Washington. Their superior rowing was one more reason to be proud of what ordinary, lower and middle class, hard working individuals could accomplish when they worked together. The nine young men in that shell (and the coaches and support personnel who accompanied them) brought pride to the entire nation when they beat almost insurmountable odds at the famed Nazi hosted 1936 Olympics.
Brown did an exceptional job of tying the individual stories of the boys and their families in the American northwest to the bigger picture of the Great Depression and the world events and politics that led to WWII just a few short years later.
Following Rantz as he overcome past hurts, bitterness, and the temptation to remain emotionally detached from others was one of the reasons I found this book inspiring. He forgave and allowed himself to become emotionally vulnerable within both his family and on his team. That vulnerability is what made many of his successes possible. I am not much into sports, but the human story behind this "sports book" made it so much more.
Note: At the time of completion (27 Sep 2015), The Boys in the Boat was #2 on the New York Times Best Sellers List for Combined Print & E-Book Non-Fiction.