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Girl Runner

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,236 ratings  ·  246 reviews
Girl Runner is the story of Aganetha Smart, a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. For Aganetha, a competitive and ambitious woman, her life remains present and unfinished in her mind.

When her quiet life is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of two young strangers, Aganetha begins
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published September 6th 2014 by House of Anansi Press
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3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,236 ratings  ·  246 reviews

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Feb 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Snyder demonstrates creativity as well as polished writing. Significant narrative for a debut benchmark.

I was drawn to Aggie’s independence, her groundbreaking achievement and her desire for more when the era was limited to women. Despite her age, Aggie is witty, plucky and hearty. Her memory and losses are tearful, as she revisits her tormented past.

I was under the impression we would read of Aggie’s trials and tribulations of her Olympic experience and success, instead the book only skimmed th
Just by coincidence, this was the third novel narrated by an elderly woman I’d read in a short span of time, after As We Are Now and The Stone Angel. This has an especially strong crossover with the latter, considering the way that in every chapter the very old woman’s present makes way for intense memories from her past. Aganetha Smart, 104, is “borrowed” from her nursing home by a teenage boy and girl, Max and Kaley. Kaley is a marathon runner making a documentary about the people who have inf ...more
MaryannC.Book Fiend
As another reader mentioned, yes, this was a complex read. It was hard for me to get into at first, not for lack of interest just that the almost somberness of it was hard to get into. I thought it was a sad read as well, an elderly woman who looks back on her life, her achievement and her loved ones who are no longer present in this world.
Sep 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canadian-author
Well, that’s not what I expected or what the blurb said. One would expect a novel of women breaking into the Olympics and the trials, tribulations, hard work, etc. that is entailed in all of that.
However, this is Aganetha’s personal story and there’s nothing new in the pages. It’s a classic story, told many times already.
Had the author not foreshadowed (heavily & obviously) upcoming events, the story would have held some interesting surprises but, as written, the reader knows the surprises
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
A story that moves back and forth from Aganetha (Aggie) Smart's childhood in rural Ontario to the present as she is spirited away from her nursing home at the age of 104 by two young people.
At the story’s start, we’re told that eight-year old Aggie's family is large and made up of siblings and half-siblings, and Aggie loves to run. In fact, Aggie begins training in her teens and ends up at the Olympic Games in 1928 Amsterdam, competing in the 800 metre run.
And really, after that, the book was j
Suze Lavender
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aganetha Smart is 104 years old. She lives in a nursing home and is completely dependent on others. She thinks she has nobody left, but then two young people pick her up for an outing. They're making a documentary, so they're filming her and they're taking her to her childhood home. During the trip all kinds of memories of the past come to the surface. Aganetha used to be a famous runner who won a gold Olympic medal. Joining the Canadian women's running team was the highlight of her running days ...more
Tara Chevrestt
1928 Amsterdam. The first Olympics at which female athletes are permitted to compete in track and field events.

That sentence right there says I should have loved this book. And that bit was interesting. I loved reading about the race, the hoopla after, about how it was determined the race was too hard for women merely because (just like some of the men) the lady winner falls to the ground when it's over. She's tired, overwhelmed with emotions...whatever. People read things into it.

Sadly, the Oly
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
Far more complex than I imagined -- a gorgeous piece of writing. There are many stories told here about women's history in areas of family, health, work, sport, and so on. Aganetha Smart is a wonderful main character. I might have more to say about this after a second read, but I want to sit with it for awhile.
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: can-con, 2014
Girl Runner is the story of Aganetha (Aggie) Smart, a gold medal Olympic runner, who at 104 years old, is essentially abducted from her nursing home by a young man and woman who say they would like to make a movie of her life, and enjoying the lark, Aggie goes along, awash in memories as she is brought to confront her own past. Where this book excels is in the writing about running and training and the Olympic experience, but where it falls flat is in execution.

I tend to enjoy books with jumbled
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
There was a lot to recommend *Girl Runner* by the Canadian Carrie Snyder. A book about a trailblazing (sometimes literally) young woman who runs for Canada in the 1928 Olympics and wins the gold. Themes that are appealing to this young-ish feminist and runner: woman makes her own decisions even if they are unpopular, woman defies supposed limitations imagined by men, woman runs because it’s the only way to feel calm and centred.

And yet. Elements of this book that didn’t need to be there, were, a
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
My Review: This book is a fictional story about a trailblazing young female Canadian runner in the early 20th century and was inspired by Canada's own 'Matchless Six' (the Canadian female athletes who successfully competed in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics). I loved learning more about the history of women in the Olympics and the struggles that these women went through in order to be able to compete on the world stage but I didn't feel that the underlying personal story of Aganetha's life was as in ...more
This review was published in the 11/1/14 edition of Library Journal:

Canadian author Snyder (The Juliet Stories) opens her novel in a nursing home, where 104-year-old Aganetha Smart, a former Olympian runner long forgotten, lives out the rest of her days until a young couple appears for an unannounced visit. Telling the staff they're making a film about female athletes, the two strangers instead take Aggie on a mysterious journey that jars loose a flood of memories that are revealed unsequentiall
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
I thought Girl Runner by Canadian author Carrie Snyder would focus more on "Aganetha Smart, a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. For Aganetha, a competitive and ambitious woman, her life remains present and unfinished in her mind." I believed the blurb, but alas, the novel was more about Aggie's trials, tribulations, and losses in her life.

I dare say if one had that many losses and bad stuff in his/her
Jenny Kim
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book was not what I expected based on the synopsis. I was expecting an inspirational read of a female athlete, a sport-biography of Aganetha Smart (Aggie) who won gold in 1928 Olympic at Amsterdam.
In reality this book was about Aggie’s family: the secrets, the tragedies, the lies and betrayals and estrangements…and her relationship with Glad, a fellow runner and friend.
The writing was good but dry, nothing special and definitely not engaging. I think the author missed a wonderful opportunit
Tracy Morton
Nov 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book was alright. I read it because it is being read as a library system wide book club and I wanted to be able to talk to patrons if they start a conversation. I didn't love it but I did like it. It jumps between several time periods of a character's life but is still easy to follow. The characters were fairly interesting. I like the more "scandalous" parts the best.
Corinne Wasilewski
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Snyder writes beautifully. There's a wonderful rhythm to her work and I like the pace of her stories plus she's a wiz at characterization. Although the plot seemed a little forced at times, overall I enjoyed this novel very much.
Liz Maguire
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I cannot decide what I want to say first for Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder. I received a proof copy of the book in March, when the pub date was in February of this year. Before I get too swept up in anything, let me just say that Girl Runner is about 105 year old Aganetha Smart, the fictionalized gold medal winner of the gold medal in running for the Canadian women’s team at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. But Girl Runner is so much more. It’s told in first person as Aganetha is taken from her nu ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, but overall, I was pretty disappointed with it. For one thing, it took forever to get into it. I almost DNF'd it around 125 pages in, but since I owned the book, and since I hate giving up, I persevered. While it did get *better*, it's not a book that is going to stay with me, or be one that I will recommend to anyone to read. The story really jumps around, especially in the beginning, and with no dates or anything to tie into the timeline, I found it so confus ...more
Jacqueline (Fall In Love With The Sound of Words)
Carrie Snyder has created a book that could quite possibly go down in history as a classic! I loved this book; from beginning to end, hence my five star review!

Aganetha Smart has had her fair share of disappointments and tragedies in life, all of which has built her into a very strong individual. At a young age she discovered a skill in running. I say skill because its clear that this isn't merely a child able to run off abundant amounts of energy. She's faster than everyone; and at a time when
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Although I can’t say that was the case from the beginning. Actually, in my first 80-90 pages with my “J” type personality (for those of you familiar with Myers Briggs), I kept thinking, “hmmm maybe a 2-3 rating for this one”. But the book changed my mind. I often have a bias to Canadian books and authors from the get-go, but I also appreciated how Carrie Snyder gives us insight into the early decades of the 1900s. I love it when books challenge me to consider the cultural limi ...more
Hester Maree
Jul 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: human-drama
At first I thought the book was about fictional Aganetha Smart's successes and achievements at Amsterdam's 1928 Olympics, where women were, for the first time, permitted to compete in track and field events. Only a few pages are dedicated to that.

Aganetha Smart, or Aggie, lives in a nursing home and at one hundred-and-four, is still plucky and humerous, although less fiercely independent than in her younger years, as she must now receive care.

Aggie, "girl runner", passionate, obsessive runner,
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
“All my life I’ve been going somewhere, aimed toward a fixed point horizon that never seems to draw nearer.”

Aganetha Smart (Aggie) has led an extraordinary life. She is a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history.
Even now, confined to a wheelchair it seems that she is still running. Chasing and reflecting on a past that is laden with struggles, sacrifices, sadness and complex family relationships.

“This is a g
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted on

I have to admit when I first got this book I assumed it was non-fiction. I was quite surprised to find out it wasn’t but I enjoyed it anyway. It is quite similar to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Hundred-Year-Old Man, we see Aganetha at the age of 104 looking back on her life. Though I think this novel is quite a bit more serious.

This book is about running and the Olympics. The way the author writes about running is so lyrical it will make
Apr 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I enjoyed this very much in the beginning, but after awhile the shifts from present day to the past began to irritate me. I found Aggie's obsession with running very realistic, especially the parts where she relates that she almost relishes the pain and discomfort. I have run enough in my life to know that runners don't always feel good when running, or even afterwards, but it can be something that you simply have to do anyway despite the pain.

I guessed the secret revealed at the end much earlie
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Maybe it was the 880 runner in me who can't run now or that we had to fight to get letter jackets for girls during high school.

Two quotes that captured it for me:

"You never run again like you run as a child: without pain. Later, you reach a point at which you've run the fastest you will ever run-the pinnacle that goes unrecognized at the time. It wasn't strength that made me a runner, it was the desire to be strong." p. 137

"This is what it (running) feels like: a catalogue of du
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this story of fictional character, Aganetha Smart, an Olympic champion for Canada in the 1928 games. The historical perspective on female athletes was very interesting and so was Aggie's personal story. She was a young girl who grew up on a farm in Ontario, moved to Toronto to work in a factory and was selected to train with the company's track team.

The author uses Aganetha's memories as a 104 year old woman looking back on her life. The memories go back and forth in a not nece
Jun 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I found this a bit of a struggle to be honest. Likened to Harold Fry but it certainly isn't anything like. I also thought the main character was a real person who won an Olympic medal and that the author had constructed her version of her story but it turns out that the gold medal was won by a completely different person. Not sure if I agree with meddling with real history, this probably won't bother others but I am a big athletics fan and it grated on me. Found it overlong too.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I almost didn't read this book because I hate the title so much, but my parents bought it for me because I'm a runner (parents are too on the nose, sometimes) and I knew they would follow up. I gave it a shot and I loved it! While running is a huge part of the book, I would say the story is more about the heartbreak of being alive. Its pretty melancholy, but really beautifully written. I also found the author's note at the end, about the actual 1928 Olympics, very interesting.
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was introduced to this book at the Alice Munro Festival last fall. I was intrigued as the author described the historical inspiration for the book, the 1928 Canadian women's Olympic track team, which included the Matchless Six. I was not disappointed. Ms Snyder has woven a compelling tale, structured through flashbacks, which comes together in a surprising and satisfying conclusion.
May 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I was so disappointed in this story of a former runner, now in old age. I had trouble following the story as it jumped back and forth between the past and the present. And yes, everything makes sense at the end, but it was challenging for me to get there.
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Carrie Snyder's second book, The Juliet Stories, was a finalist for the 2012 Governor General's Award for fiction. Her first book, Hair Hat, was nominated for a Danuta Gleed Award. Carrie has also won a CBC Literary Award for short fiction (2006). Carrie makes her home in Waterloo, Ontario with her husband, four children, and two dogs. She blogs as Obscure CanLit Mama.
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“Under every layer of pain, another layer of recovery lies in wait, the sweet, forever surprising truth of endurance.” 8 likes
“People we love do disappoint us (...). We don't have to love them less for it. Maybe we have to love them more.” 4 likes
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