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Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  704 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Jill is an unassuming recreational cyclist who has about as much in common with Lance Armstrong as she does with Michael Jordan. But despite her perceived athletic mediocrity, the newspaper editor from Alaska harbors an outlandish ambition: the "world's toughest mountain bike race," a 2,740-mile journey from Canada to Mexico along the rugged spine of the Rocky Mountains.

Kindle Edition, 344 pages
Published (first published May 5th 2011)
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Jodi Jacobson
May 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, women, adventure
Be Brave, Be Strong at 421 pages is nonetheless a a quick-read memoir by Jill Homer about, as the title states, her journey across the Great Divide by mountain bike. Homer is a Utah native living in Alaska at the time she is preparing for this race. The story actually begins with the Iditarod, a harsh cross-country race that people apparently undertake by bicycle, foot, sled, and perhaps other means of transportation. Before this I actually thought the Iditarod was only done by sled. During the ...more
Red Haircrow
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
With terrific photos of the beauty of landscape and individual and group determination to succeed in their goals, “Be Brave, Be Strong” is a moving work of one women’s tremendous journey to complete a dream after heartbreak. Although a memoir of sorts and a detailing her experiences, I appreciated the flowing style that reminded me of the storytelling tradition of my people, not just someone telling their story. We’re given fascinating views into the internal struggle and psychological influence ...more
If you want to read a book on inspiration and reaching your goals, this is definitely the one that you should pick up.
I felt so bad initially for not having started on this sooner, since it's a first-reads book, but I wasn't able to start it until about 3 months after initially getting it due to the hard semester I've had. So I picked it up right away as soon as my break started, and now after finishing it I feel even worse for not having reviewed it earlier. It was really good and so much cred
Tara Chevrestt
3.5 stars actually, but gr doesn't let me do that...

I am in awe of this woman... not only can she write a good yarn, but her story is amazing. I mean how many of us would ride a mountain bike from Canada to Mexico in rain and over 11,000 foot mountains in just 24 days? With only two outfits and a bag of junk food and a sleeping bag?

Jill Homer did. It's called the Tour Divide and she did it in 2009.. first try. Her narrative begins in Alaska with her long time boyfriend suddenly calling it quits.
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Won on First Reads Giveaway. As an avid mountian biker I am so excited to read this one.

Jill is my new hero. This is less a book about mountain biking than self discovery and life. In three and a half weeks Jill rides through more than a race course but all that is good and bad in life. As a biker I loved the book and will give it to family and friends to read. During graduate school at the University of Utah I lived in Sandy and rode Corner Canyon, Millcreek, and in the Cottonwoods regularly (p
Oct 12, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting and detailed read about a grueling race. I appreciated the personal details Jill included in this book, though her use of similes is...distracting is the nicest way I can put it. And she uses a lot of them. They just don't add to the story and go way off into left field, putting the attention onto the strange comparison rather than the thing that is being described, such as comparing mud to a greedy child eating peanut butter sandwiches. huh? ...more
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
The first few chapters were painful as she just makes some really poor choices but once she started the actual race, I loved the writing and the adventure. I understand that the first few chapters set a necessary back drop but she did seem pretty stupid and whiny there for a bit. A great adventure though and a well told tale of an amazing race.
Stacey P
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I downloaded this book on a whim and I'm so glad I did. A great read if you're into cycling, the outdoors, or endurance sports! ...more
Tamara Covacevich
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this a lot! It felt like a light read, but one that catches you enough that you just want to read it through in one sit. She writes well, and I feel like the narrator and I could be friends haha.

"That was supposed to be my decision. If I curled up into a snow hole on Richmond Peak, then
that would be my stopping point for the night. If I had a surge of energy and felt like pushing beyond it, I would. Having finite destinations cast a soulless shadow over the Divide, as though we had the
Rachael Steil
May 12, 2022 rated it really liked it
Closer to 3.5 stars. Very engaging read, except for long sections I skimmed or skipped over that felt too wordy. I enjoyed the book overall! Amazing story.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing read. I cried the whole last chapter. Will be passing this book on to my training friends. Thank you for sharing your journey.
Miss Cassidy
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended for someone wanting to read about solo-adventures. May be better suited for female readers, but some males might like it.
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really cool story of Jill Homer's race in the 2009 Tour Divide, a self-supported mountain bike race that starts in Banff, travels across a planned route along the Continental divide and ends at the Mexican border. She starts out by describing the events that lead up to the race - frostbite that forced her to drop out of the Iditarod Trail Invitational, breaking up with her partner of 8 years, and the decision to leave her job. Then, the meat of the book is the story of her journey in t ...more
May 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
The story was told simply, without unnecessary details. The reader will endure Jill's struggles with Ultrasport, the possibility of leaving her job as a newspaper editor and her home in Juneau. Her boyfriend of eight years will break off the relationship. The author gives the reader the straight-forward facts, revealing all and hiding nothing. The reader will be impressed that the author is willing to share some tough choices and events in her life. This comprises the first part of the story. Th ...more
Linda Drish
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. I had a hard time putting it down. Jill is a remarkable young woman that dreams big and does everything to make it come true. While racing the 2700+ miles on a mountain bike she beautifully describes the scenery, the weather, conditions of the trail and the very nice people that gave her a place to sleep and fed her warm meals. She writes about sleeping in her bivy sack along side the road as the sleep monster took over. She has very little fear!

I felt like I was
Marlene M Penner
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, first-reads
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. At the beginning I felt the chapters ended and began a bit choppy but by mid book I felt the flow going from one chapter to the next. Jill did a wonderful job of detailing her adventure to include her emotions, human interaction and progress. At times I did skim details of elevation, terrain and trail conditions but mostly because I am not a cyclist an it felt tedious to me. I appreciated how she didn't bog down the book with her exact words everytime she had a ro ...more
Ron S
Apr 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frost-bite, crutches, the end of a relationship and an uncertain future don't deter journalist Jill Homer from undertaking The Tour Divide bicycle race from Banff, Alberta to the Mexican border at Antelope Wells. Brit Paul Howard's account of the the same 2009 event is "Eat. Sleep. Ride." As with her earlier book about racing the Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska, "Ghost Trails," Homer brings a lot of emotion and reflection to overwhelmingly male dominated events. Both books would make great ...more
Sahil Raina
I actually liked large parts of this book quite a lot. There were many instances where I could almost imagine myself in her position, stuck facing a near impossible task. Her descriptions of those situations, how she powered through them, were mostly well done. However, there were some parts wherein I found the author's discussion of personal relationships with real people to be a little uncomfortable. Maybe that's what an autobiography is but, somehow, these people were a little too close to re ...more
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I'm a little more than halfway through this book. I'm trying to savor it (because it's really good!) and not just read it in a few epic sittings as I did Ghost Trails, the author's other book. So far I'm really enjoying this story about the author's experiences leading up to and riding the Tour Divide Mountain Bike Race.
An added bonus is that reading a little bit of this book every evening has been a great motivator for actual bike riding during the day!

eta: I finished this book. I really loved
Sep 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting read, although a bit soap-opera in parts where author describes her relationship break-up. Some great descriptions of bicycling the Tour Divide event. If you are a fan of wilderness racing (which in my mind is a contradiction in terms) then this is a good book. It would have been better in my mind if the author was riding the route on her own, rather than as part of an "event". But the descriptions of the landscape, and the sights, smells, sounds, and feeling of rugged, long distance ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I very much enjoyed Jill Homer's simple writing style - this felt more like a diary than anything else. But I found some aspects of the book frustrating. She introduced a couple of relationships into the book but didn't really resolve what was happening with either (which I realize this book is about a race but don't introduce something you don't want to talk about).

I was mostly curious about what happened after the race. I would assume that an event like this can change you and I was frustrate
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is definitely a worthwhile read. Ms. Homer eloquently touches upon heavy life themes, but also manages to keep things light and humorous enough to make the novel an enjoyable read. I'm not a woman or a cyclist, and yet I found this book to be engaging, interesting, and relatable, as it mostly focuses on physical and mental adversity, and a person's ability to overcome such. I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone, but especially those who appreciate the outdoors and com ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
At about 3/4 through I was starting to think about what I would give this book in regards to a Goodreads rating - it was going to be a 4. Then came the last chapter - I sobbed. Full on sobbed, multiple times - I have no idea where it came from. Obviously - it's a 5 with that kind of psychological response. This book tugs at your core - because each and every one of us can relate: it may not be biking, but we have each had some sort of struggle that we had to fight to the bitter end to finish. I ...more
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is easier to give up than to success in an arduous mountain bicycle ride along the spine of the rocking mountains. The 2,740-mile trip is not for the faint hearted and not the speediest when you think about pedaling one’s self that distance. There are pictures that highlight the beauty and the obstacles author Homer faced on her 24-day record setting journey on the 2009 Tour Divide. Reader will discover the toil this type of commitment takes on the body, emotions, relationships, and of course ...more
Bryan Mullalley
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've done some single day endurance road riding, and a few casual multi-day tours, but nothing like this mountain bike adventure. I loved this book and found it to be very motivational. I think that even non-cyclists would find this a good read and would be able to take something away from the book. This book shows what a person can accomplish just by refusing to give up and by pushing themselves beyond what should seem possible. ...more
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I read it pretty quickly. I know a number of other reviewers complained about her focusing a lot on the dissolution of her relationship. I found that to be both interesting and engaging. It provided solid background to her motivations and put everything in context. Toward the end the descriptions became all too familiar and I found myself skimming. Other than that it was a great read. I particularly loved the beginning on the iditarod.
Lydia Larson
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jill brings the strong heroine to a higher level in this book. She fights the pain and the sadness, she fights the weakness of the human condition. This book is captivating, thrilling, emotional, comedic and inspiring. I could hardly put it down and am trying to get every adventurer I know to read it so we can dissect and savor each word she has written.
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this memoir tremendously. I am a regular reader of Jill's blog. Reading her blog entry about wiping out in Marin was like getting punched in the gut. Jill brings that same emotion to the page in Be Brave, Be Strong. Even though it sometimes discusses deeply personal events, this book is truly a joy to read both in terms of its emotional depth, and descriptive power. ...more
Heather C
Jun 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I hate doing half ratings, but this was more of a 3.5 for me. Enjoyed reading it, and loved her ability to fully embrace the grandeur of the challenge, beauty, perspectives, and life-changing moments she experienced through the book. Fascinating - especially since members of my family rode the great divide a few years ago and this gave me insight into what they experienced.
Matt Heavner
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic personal narrative about an incredible bike ride. I really enjoyed the read and was completely inspired to do a few short segments of the ride! There were some fantastic "one-liners" My favorite:

"I pedaled because pedaling was the most natural course of action."
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