So I’m closing the book on Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas and since this is Chalk Creek Writing Outfit & Running Club, I thought it appropriate to give it a little review and also the first ever CWO&RC Recommendation.
Now I’ve had the book for better than a month and I usually don’t take this long to read a book, but it’s been a tough time for me. I’m not going to lie. It just has and if you read my blogs and follow me, you know of what I speak.
That said, I thought Bravey has been interesting with lots of treasurable pieces balanced against some severe and really horrific stories of runner and writer Alexi Pappas’ childhood pain and experiences with her mother, who was mentally ill and who killed herself.
I’m not going into the details of those painful parts of the story, but it felt honest to me. Pappas tells the stories of a girl growing up without a mother in a truthful, sensitive yet humorous way. I’ve often noticed that many survivors of tragedies and hardships don’t dwell on them as some dark and horrible time, but remember the moments of laugher and oddities that sprang out of them and that’s what you see from Pappas. Still, it’s important if you’ve experienced this kind of trauma in life that you get some help and Pappas advocates for that in her book.
Beyond that, I was curious about how other people received the book. There are tons of positive reviews for Pappas and it’s well deserved. There are some reviews that are highly critical of the book and I did notice a theme among those who were more critical of Pappas’ work.
In several reviews people didn’t like how much time Pappas spent on self-reflection and analysis. Some people didn’t like Pappas’ conclusions at the end about chasing dreams and achieving things through hardwork. I’m not sure I agree with some of those criticisms, especially those that feel she should have more clearly acknowledged her own advantages in life in achieving success. I think she acknowledged a lot of that throughout the book. The only thing I’d say about the last chapter is that it felt a bit rushed and could have been expanded. (Or, knowing the process of editing, she could have left some stuff in.)
On the whole, though I liked Pappas’ introspection and it makes perfect sense to me that a professional athlete of her caliber would look at her life and events in this way. She’s spent a career going over her performances and practices and trying to figure out where she could do better and what it means for her next race. So it seems natural she’d do it with her life and I appreciated that about this book and I think a lot of runners will too. Oh, please don’t think this is a book about running, it’s about life. There are some good bits about her career as a runner that I think young runners and coaches would benefit from reading, though.
But my favorite parts are really those parts that drove the critics a little crazy.
I really enjoyed her chapter on the 2016 Rio Olympics and being in the village.
I particularly loved this passage about visiting the Olympic Salon and getting a makeover for maybe the first time in her life and how it sparked this thought from her:
He (the hair stylist) put thought into me and that mattered. It made me feel paid-attention-to. There are two ways to be paid-attention-to: there is the way where people are judging you, which can make you feel bad, and then there is this way where someone makes you feel special and good.Bravey by Alexi Pappas
I think over all there’s a lot of good in this book. I also think Pappas has a lot of material she could use in the future for books, movies or TV, especially related to her experiences in the Olympics and afterwards. But I believe this book delivers on what it promises. And so this book gets the first ever Chalk Creek Writing Outfit & Running Club Recommendation!
Keep running, keep writing