Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ghost Runners by Robert Rubenstein


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I started this book I knew nothing about the 1936 Olympics and the two jewish runners, Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman. I also did not know of Avery Brundage, the US Olympic committee leader who pulled those two atheletes from the American team at the last minute. The speculation is that Avery Brundage made his decision in an attempt to avoid embarrassing the Olympic host country, Nazi Germany. I researched the event while reading Ghost Runners to learn a little more about the event that Robert Rubenstein based his book on. It is a tribute to Rubenstein's that I was not only drawn in by the story, but was motivated to look into the facts behind it.

Robert Rubenstein has written the story of Bobby Gillman and Joshua Sellers who were pulled from this fictional Olympic team by Arian Bandage. Fiction is in many ways truer than non-fiction because writers of fiction are free to speculate about the powerful emotions behind the facts. That's what we readers get in Ghost Runners. Rubenstein has changed the names of some of his main characters so he can show their reality. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have relationships. They love their sport and they take pride in their heritage. By reading this account of the story I didn't just learn the facts, I was consumed by them.

In the book readers are taken from the streets of Brooklyn, New York to Germany via the Manhattan, a renovated cruise ship set up to allow the team to train while traveling. The training had its problems due to politics, partying, and sea sickness. But the team got where they needed to go. Once in Germany the story brings in famous names such as Leni Riefenstahl, who filmed the event, Joseph Goebbels, the German propaganda minister, and, of course, Adolf Hitler. On the American side there are athletes such as Jesse Owens and politicians such as FDR and Gerald Ford.

I've been reading a number of WW2 books recently. I'm glad I chose this one to add to that list. It's a wonderful read and a fascinating insight to that time.

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