Angie Abdou’s first novel The Bone Cage was a Christmas gift and is the first book on this year’s reading list. Dave bought it for me because he heard about it on Canada Reads and thought it would interest me because I worked on a series called Sport and Society last year that focussed on Olympic athletes.
In The Bone Cage Abdou introduces us to Sadie and Digger two University of Calgary-based athletes on their way to the Sydney Olympics. Both Sadie who is a swimmer and Digger who is a wrestler are at the end of their sporting careers and this is their last chance to make it to the big ‘show’, the Sydney Olympics. This is the sporting event that they have trained for their entire lives and their chance to finally shine in the public light.
This is a really quick read and offers a glimpse in to the world of the elite athlete. The grueling hours of work, the lack of recognition, the personal sacrifices that have to be made, training with little or no funding, the inability to focus on anything else in life except personal performance and the toll this pursuit has on the athlete’s body.
Abdou touches not only on the mental strength it takes to make this journey but also the physical pain that is endured by almost every athlete as they inevitably encounter injuries that must be overcome. The book does raise some ethical questions about some dangerous practices athletes are willing to undergo in order to make the team or reach a particular goal. For example, Digger and his team mates dehydrate themselves completely by wearing plastic and exercising in a hot sauna in order to make weight.
I think it’s important to have these kinds of stories told because we’re often seduced by the bright lights of the Olympics. The book raises the question of how we support our athletes, should we support them and in what way, do we put too much pressure on them to reach increasingly difficult goals, and how far can we drive the human body?
I’m interested in this topic so the book was an easy enjoyable read for me. But I thought overall the characters were somewhat wooden as was the relationship between Sadie and Digger. When Abdou wasn’t writing about actual training or sports the words and the story didn’t quite flow as naturally as it could have.
I mentioned this book to my friend who is a high school teacher because I think it has a lot to offer in terms of the topic and I think anyone interested in elite sports or athletics would find this a good read.