A silenced centenarian harbors a remarkable past in Snyder's (The Juliet Stories, 2012, etc.) latest novel.
At age 104, Aganetha Smart has outlived most who would recognize her as a gold-medal–winning runner for Canada in the 1928 Olympics. Despite being ignored by the staff of her nursing home, Aganetha is still mentally spry, with a strong and often humorous inner voice. Her time at the nursing home has been largely uneventful, until one day when a pair of young strangers arrives under the pretense of being distant relatives, and though Aganetha knows this to be untrue—“Everyone known to me is dead, buried, departed, gone, x-ed out from my life, ties severed, bridges burnt, lost, misplaced"—she's eager for a change of scenery and goes along with it. Away from the nursing home, the visitors begin to admit their true motivations. Kaley, a young runner with her own Olympic dreams, claims to be making a documentary about her athletic inspirations with the help of her brother, Max. While Aganetha again knows they're still not being entirely honest, the break from her usual routine is well worth the uncertainty. The narrative leaps back and forth through time, from a young Aganetha surrounded by a family rife with secrets and heartache, to her brief career as an Olympic athlete and model, and finally to the events that lead to the nursing home with little evidence of her prior glory. The present action with Kaley and Max is often lost in the years of memories, though it plays an equally vital role.
A tale of family and life after the gold medal that struggles to gain momentum.