Aganetha Smart was a poor farm girl who could run like the wind, but this was rural Canada in the 1920s when girls didn't run, or dream of the Olympics and they certainly didn't win.
Aganetha Smart was about to change all that.
Girl Runner, Carrie Snyder's debut novel, 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 to reflect on her childhood in rural Ontario and her struggles to make an independent life for herself in the city.
Without revealing who they are, or what they may want from her, the visitors take Aganetha on an outing from the nursing home. As ready as ever for adventure, Aganetha's memories are stirred when the pair return her to the family farm where she was raised. The devastation of WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic, the optimism of the 1920s and the sacrifices of the 1930s play out in Aganetha's mind, as she wrestles with the confusion and displacement of the present.
Part historical page-turner, part contemporary mystery, Girl Runner is an engaging and endearing story about family, ambition, athletics and the dedicated pursuit of one's passions. It is also, ultimately, about a woman who follows the singular, heart-breaking and inspiring course of her life until the very end.
Right from the start, the voice of Aganetha Smart, a one-time Olympic runner, now aged 104 and living in a home, grabs you. And it doesn't let go until the very last page of this original and moving story. At time, it has something of the quirky charm of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, though the setting - rural Canada - couldn't be more different...the extraordinary backstory of this frail, old lady keeps you engrossed — Daily Mail
An appealing tale of the "odd girl out"... Based loosely on a real figure, Aganetha's story explores what it means to be an icon to a generation. But mainly this is a family story, a tale of sisters and brothers lost to one another through illness or war... Families are harbingers of of secrets and lies, and Snyder teases out the various hidden tensions with skill, moving back and forth in time to good effect. — Independent on Sunday
The book hurtles through the 20th century in rich technicolor. It is not only a portrait of a life, but a portrait of an entire century. The role of the strangers in Aganetha's life, as well as the reliability of Aganetha's own memory create a book which is not only a vivid historical piece but also has all the ingredients of a contemporary mystery novel. The character of Aganetha is easy to like, reflective and warm on the subject of her life's greatest driving forces: family, athletics and her own unfaltering ambition. Girl Runner would be a terrific book group read, a real page-turner which is overflowing with discussion points. — We Love This Book
a valuable reminder of how hard women have had to fight to be taken seriously as runners... it's a joy to read about a woman finding pleasure in her body that isn't sex or diet-based. Long may running provide this escape for all of us, men and women alike — Independent on Sunday
Carrie Snyder has written an extraordinary, accomplished debut novel of love and family: a wonderful story of a free spirit forced to make difficult choices. Aggie Smart is a truly memorable heroine: she grabbed my hand on page one and never let go. — Sara Gruen, internationally bestselling author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
This glorious Canadian family saga takes the preservation of precious memories very seriously...there's understated tenderness here — Saga magazine
Inspired by the Canadian women who successfully competed in the 1928 Olympics, this novel is about so much more than athletics. The story follows the memories of Aganetha Smart, who wins a gold medal in Amsterdam, but is now in a nursing home at the age of 104. When a couple turn up and convince her they are making a documentary of her life, she agrees to an outing with them - what follows causes Aganetha to look back on her life, her losses and her incredible story that spans two world wars. A challenging read, it will force you to understand the cultural limitations faced by women for the past 100 years. — Essentials Magazine
A beautiful, thoughtful homage to those forgotten women who stepped outside the boundaries of what was allotted to them, and a testament to the struggles and sacrifices that paved the way for the female athletes who followed. — Quill & Quire
Girl Runner fuses history and personality to create an inspiring record of the need for speed... a well-paced book that weaves together the past and present narratives of an uncompromising woman's life. We are sped through an accessible read that deftly touches on the difficult subjects of gender equality, abortion, and the obstacles women face in professional sports. Throughout the novel, Snyder, a distance runner herself, manages to capture the essence of the need to run, that marrow-deep desire... At its core, Girl Runner manages to remind us of the challenges often set before women attempting to achieve something once thought to be dangerous or out of reach, or even quite simply attempting to achieve the life they desire. — Globe and Mail
Girl Runner, Carrie Snyder's third book, will undoubtedly put her in the front of the "writers to watch" pack... Snyder tunes Aganetha's voice so beautifully at each stage of her life that the comparisons to Elizabeth Strout's unforgettable "Olive Kitteridge" are inevitable. Yet Aganetha is most definitely her own person from start to finish - a process Snyder has captured with exceptional grace. — Minnesota Star Tribune
The book is easy to leap into and be carried along with, the pace at once steady and breathless... Throughout Girl Runner, the historical context is always pressing in, whether it be in the form of war or a stock market crash or an epidemic. These events are world-shaping, and the details and specificity that Snyder is able to bring into Girl Runner enhance without distracting. However, what defines the novel is the depth and breadth of Aggie herself; she's a rare heroine whose rich internal life is matched only by the abundance of her external living. Her complexities, her desires and failures and her deep relationships are the book's heart; her connections to her family and friends, her mentors and antagonists, are authentic and beautifully wrought. — National Post (Canada)
Carrie Snyder strikes gold with her debut novel... Girl Runner is a marvelously complex novel that never loses its way... Taken in their totality, you end up with a powerful novel that chronicles the struggle of woman in the 20th century to take control of their bodies - a struggle that continues into the new millennium. — Waterloo Record
The protagonist of Carrie Snyder's Girl Runner is fierce and uncompromising. Snyder resists the temptation to soften edges or make Aganetha's old and brittle bones beautiful... There are flashes of Morag Gunn in Aganetha and, as a reader, I could ask for nothing more in this debut novel than to be reminded of Margaret Laurence's most searing character. — Toronto Star
In Girl Runner, an exquisitely crafted, deeply imagined novel, former Olympic athlete Aganetha Smart comes to vibrant, often aching life. As she pursues her dream, negotiates the travails of achieving much early in life and navigates the complexities of family and friendship, her captivating story unfolds with the sure-footedness of an elite runner. — Cathy Marie Buchanan, bestselling author of THE PAINTED GIRLS
Girl Runner is everything I had hoped it would be. It is crisp and smart and lyrical. It is a page-turner... What I most loved about the book is the description of Aganetha's ambition. I don't think there are enough stories about female ambition. Snyder describes ambition not as something hard or calculating, but as if it is something organic, born and not made by the goal-setting cheers of the chorus of life coaches that seem so loud in the 21st century. — 4 Mothers blog
Snyder maintains an engaging blog called Obscure CanLit Mama, but if there's any justice she'll soon have the option of dropping that first word. — Montreal Gazette
Snyder has an uncanny ability to make the unfamiliar intensely knowable. — Telegraph Journal