Contest nominee looks at atheletes’ journey

This is a big year for Canada Reads, the national CBC Radio contest which selects the must-read book of the year.

This is a big year for Canada Reads, the national CBC Radio contest which selects the must-read book of the year.

This week-long debate features celebrities backing their favourite of the five nominees, debating the merits of each as potential winners are eliminated one by one.

But even after 10 years, the annual contest still has some fresh selections to offer.

One of the lesser-known entries this year is The Bone Cage by first-time novelist Angie Abdou. This is a book about high-level athletes, written by an athlete and championed by an athlete, former NHL heavyweight and bruiser, Georges Laraque.

In The Bone Cage, a swimmer and a wrestler from the University of Calgary make it through a long and gruelling process and are selected for the Olympic team. With just six months left before the competition, Sadie and Digger are pushing their bodies to the limit.

For both, the Olympics will be the pinnacle of years of grinding, monotonous and often lonely hours of training.

The story isn’t a feel-good read about the road to success. The Bone Cage documents the true deprivation, hardship and heartache that athletes endure simply for a chance to step on the podium.

Before each competition Digger and his wrestling mates don plastic suits and ride stationary bikes in the sauna. Attempting to drop kilos, they willingly sweat themselves into severe dehydration. Their lips crack and tongues swell as they attempt to reduce into their weight category. In some cases, they wind up in the hospital instead of on the wrestling mat.

At 26, Sadie still lives with her parents so she can wake at 5 a.m. each morning and plunge into the pool. She’s memorized each crack and wad of gum on the bottom of the pool as she spends hours, days and weeks battling boredom and fatigue, pushing just a bit faster through the water.

Right from the beginning, it’s clear that the author, Abdou, is a high-level athlete. Her background as a competitive swimmer brings an authenticity to her compelling descriptions. More than that, the story arc is linear, much like a race, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

Abdou reminds us that the finish line for any athlete, whether they reach the podium or not, holds both great joy and a sense of loss. All athletes eventually come to a point when their bone cage fails them and they are, in a sense, defeated.

The other books in the Canada Reads contest are: Unless by Carol Shields, The Birth House by Ami McKay, Essex County by Jeff Lemire and The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. Unless the other celebs are intimidated by Laraque, it’s anybody’s guess who will win next week’s contest.

Heather Allen is a writer and reader living in Penticton.

Just Posted

Spiritleaf, Penticton’s first cannabis retailer opened in 2019. (Western News File)
Penticton expands cannabis store hours to match liquor stores

Cannabis stores are now allowed to operate until 11 p.m. in Penticton

(Jennifer Smith/Black Press file photo)
Poll: Should Penticton hold Canada Day celebrations this year?

The spotlight on residential schools has caused the rethinking of Canada Day

A committee held its first meeting on June 9 to consider opionions for incorporation of the community of Okanagan Falls. At present, Okanagan Falls is the largest unincorporated community within the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. (Contributed)
Study begins for Okanagan Falls incorporation

Committee held first meeting on June 9

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Hot and cold water have different pouring sounds

Your morning start for Wednesday, June 16, 2021

New trial date set in Penticton for Thomas Kruger-Allen’s triple assault charges

May trial was delayed after Crown witnesses failed to show up

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News file)
Man found dead at Kelowna orchard

Police say the man was working in the orchard at the time of his death; criminality not suspected

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

Kay Bartholomew, daughter of the founding owner of Wayside Press, Harold George Bartholomew (Bart Sr.). Outdoor enthusiast and longest-standing Wayside employee, Kay worked for the company until she was 97 spanning 80 years.
PHOTOS: A century of service from Wayside in Vernon

The press and printing company, founded by Harold George Bartholomew, turns 100 in 2021

Syilx artist Sheldon Pierre Louis contributed a new painting to UBC Okanagan’s public art collection. (UBC Okanagan)
Syilx artist contributes painting to UBCO public art collection

The new painting is titled cax̌alqs — red dress

Spread out on the staircase of the Kelowna courthouse on June 10, 2021, were several signs with messages calling for justice against Curtis Sagmoen and an end to violence. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News file)
Sagmoen cop assault trial set for 2022

Pre-trial conference set to start process Jan. 26, 2022

Most Read