Disclaimer: I am NOT a bicyclist, but my husband is. As a result, I've found a love for the sport. Every year we watch the Tour de France and about six months ago, he drew me in with a documentary film about the first unsupported Trans America bicycle race. In that race was a woman rider who honestly stole the show. We loved her. She was snarky and fun as she goaded the Italian men who said she shouldn't be there because she didn't have the experience. Well, a few weeks after that I was looking at books on NetGalley and found this book and showed it to my husband, because he loves to read books like this. He was the one who recognized the author as the woman from that race...so I requested the book.
I'm so glad I did. Most of you that read my reviews know this isn't my normal genre to read. Although I do read a lot of biographies for reference with my own fictional writing, I don't normally review them. But this book is worthy of a review just because it was a phenomenal book. I'll admit. I'm a fiction reader. As a result, I usually slog through non-fiction books and honestly rarely finish them. I finished this book within twelve hours of starting it...and read it in the middle of my normal work/life day...so I was pretty much reading it every spare moment I had. I definitely recommend it.
Juliana Buhring does not have the normal endurance cyclist's history. In fact, when she set out on this adventure, she'd only been riding a bicycle as an adult (building up her endurance and not just for casual rides) for a few months. So for her to set out not only to circumnavigate the world, but also to set the record for doing so was absolutely crazy.
But she had her reasons.
A year and a half before, a man she loved who was also an extreme adventurer died when a crocodile attacked him in his kayak. There are flashbacks throughout the book of discussions she'd had with him over the years. He also led a not-normal life and they'd had lots of philosophical discussions about those choices. Ms. Buhring also has a different background just because she was raised in a cult until the age of 23 when she escaped. Over the years, she was abused, shunted from country to country, and rarely had anyone from her family who loved her there to support her. The cult regularly separated families for the good of the cult and this began for her at the age of 4.
Her stories are heartbreaking, but they help to explain how she could survive this journey. She's tough...incredibly so, and from reading her story, I would guess that she doesn't make connections easily which is why it was so devastating to her when her friend died so suddenly.
The book is completely engrossing and entertaining. She's an incredible writer. It's broken up like a daily journal with little vignettes and stories from her daily observations. But sprinkled throughout are philosophical discussions about life and what it means. There are moments when she's incredibly depressed and at rock bottom of her ability to go on, but those are tempered by days of beauty and resilience which prove to her why she needs to keep going. I loved reading the book and getting to follow her on her journey.
I definitely recommend the book...for bicycle enthusiasts, people who like to read biographies, or for anyone that likes to read about the human spirit and its ability to overcome immeasurable odds. She overcame and wrote an inspiring book documenting her journey.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.