WHAT MAKES OLGA RUN?

THE MYSTERY OF THE 90-SOMETHING TRACK STAR AND WHAT SHE CAN TEACH US ABOUT LIVING LONGER, HAPPIER LIVES

Eye-opening and insightful.

A Canadian freelance journalist probes the fascinating mystery behind a nonagenarian female’s stunning success as a competitive athlete.

When Olga Kotelko first took up track at age 77, it was simply for fun. But by the time she reached her 90s, the former schoolteacher had become the holder of more than 20 world records, and she was the fastest nonagenarian female in the world. In a book that is part biography and part exploration of the latest research in exercise physiology, gerontology and neuropsychology, Grierson (U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life?, 2007) grapples with the question of why a little old lady barely 5 feet tall breaks records rather than bones. Science offers answers that are as tantalizing as they are incomplete. For most people, healthy aging boils down to three-quarters good lifestyle and one-quarter good genes. Grierson suggests that Olga’s habits—which include an “an abiding faith in water, reflexology,” intense workouts that target every moving part in her body and personal traits such as extroversion, friendliness and resilience—no doubt help to account for her impressive good health. Her family history, however, does not reveal exceptional longevity nor does it explain where Olga derived her almost freakish physical capabilities. Grierson proposes that the mystery surrounding Olga’s achievements has less to do with her lifestyle and genetic inheritance and more to do with how her particular body has somehow managed to develop mechanisms, which scientists have yet to understand, that have slowed the aging process. Olga’s body may be unique in its age-defying abilities, but her determination to push the limits of her own physicality is what is most inspiring of all, especially to baby boomers like the author. For Grierson, Olga is living proof that “[n]ot only is midlife not too late [to start exercising]…in some ways, it’s the best time to go for it.”

Eye-opening and insightful.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9720-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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