on July 7, 2002
To say this book is about rowing is to say that Brian's Song is about football. If you are looking for rowing tips, forget it.
This is a story - a true story - a page-turner that you cannot put down.
What Sara Hall has given us is the story of a journey to self-discovery and freedom. And to say that her writing is "lyrical," is a gross understatement. The rhythm and razor-sharp imagery of her writing is breathtaking. Sometimes it's poetic, sometimes irreverent and funny, sometimes downright scary. Her gifts extend far beyond her world-class ability to row.
I've never rowed and (fortunately) cannot identify with the abusive relationship she found herself mired in. But everything else in the book rang bells for me: the dual-edged sword of motherhood -both fulfilling and sometimes suffocating, feelings of isolation, the need to find kindred spirits, the joys of supportive friendships, the power of self-determination, the exhilaration of pushing yourself to the limits (my limits are far lower than Sara's), and so much more.
Picking up this book is like hearing faint peckings within a slightly wobbly egg and turning your attention to it in fascination and astonishment as you see cracks appear, chips pop out, and finally the miracle of what's inside.
When I finished Drawn to the Rhythm, I was ready to turn right back to page one and start all over again - Sara's writing is that good and that inspiring.
on April 5, 2002
Sara Hall is a strong, loving women with a poetic gift for prose. She is simply lovely to read and uplifting in her descriptions of the journey she undertook to escape a hearbreaking, even dangerous marriage. More stories should have the happy ending of this one--discovery of a passion not personal, from an ugly marriage to a better world for herself and her children. In impeccable and gracious prose she shows the reader how a life can be transformed without once being mean or diminishing to the source of her years of torture. She is a woman of many gifts who finds freedom and triumph in the hard work of becoming a champion athlete. Most women will never row, at least in the kind of boat she races. But too many women have been in the sorry boat of dependency on a man for the family well-being. When the controlling, cruel abuse goes on, hidden from the world by outward good fortune (fine children; enough to eat; freedom to "make it all look good") it is all the more horrible that the perpetrator holds the keys to the store. She and their children won't eat unless he permits it, and while he permits it he is simultaneously laying on strong, negative, dishonest messages. Fortunately Sara Hall has found victory as she acquires skills in another area. Anyone can do it. It doesn't take a boat or a pretty house to make escape and redemption possible, and she tells her story in flowing and gracious prose. Anyone who cares about marriage should have to read this as a prerequisite to saying vows and signing the contract. It's a dread possibility to think of a marriage like this, and a joy to learn that such marriages don't have to be. With enough courage any woman can be her own wonderful self--and a wife and mother too. Ms. Hall deserves gold medals for her achievements against great odds--and for her gracious, beautifully written accounts of her own triumph.
on March 22, 2002
Sara Hall is a private person who, even in her unfulfilling marriage, preferred solitude to a busy, outgoing lifestyle. To her husband she was submissive, always trying to please him at any cost, afraid to do anything which might cause his disapproval. As she tells her story, one can almost conjure up the image of a timid mouse cowering in the corner, too afraid and insecure to speak out. As she tells of her self-discovery and passion for rowing, she is inspired by the peace, tranquility and movement the sport brings. From that point on, she becomes less submissive, and rowing becomes her salvation from a domineering husband - her personal outlet in life just as some of us choose writing, music, dance or art.
Unlike the book, "An Unfinished Marriage" by Joan Anderson, which I also highly recommend to readers, this marriage does not survive. However, Sara and her husband both learn some vitally important facts about their marriage and their own personal lives. Sara goes on to become a world championship rower, her confidence grows, and in the process she discovers her true self, a new passion and zest for life, and joy in her athletic accomplishments. The book is inspirational, highly recommended and most deserving of a five star rating. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your journey. May the waters you row upon always be calm and peaceful.
on March 13, 2002
Several weeks a friend sent me an e-mail concerning a book entitled Drawn to the Rhythm by Sara Hall. I read his comments and was skeptical at first because I did not feel I would enjoy a memoir about a woman in her 40s who became a world-class sculler. But I bought the book anyway.
Was I pleasantly surprised! Sara has written a very exciting book depicting her life on the water and off. She is an excellent writer and is able to capture the reader's interest with her story. At times it's a very depressing story and then suddenly rockets to excitement, victory, and happiness.
Sara has transformed a very interesting biography into a "page-turner". She is focused on two challenges in her life: first in her life with her family, and then in her time on the water with her rowing. It amazes me that she's able to mold these two very different facets of her experience into a very intriguing story. My guess many of you will despise the husband because he is such a jerk. As my English Lit professor might have said, the word jerk is strictly a euphemism in this instance!
I won't try to convince any of you to buy this book, but I think if you do, you will hear and experience the incredible story of a woman whose life totally changed over the last 6 years. I was flabbergasted in the last chapter where she even shows gratitude to her former husband, because if life with him had not been so difficult, she probably never would have pushed herself so hard in this new life and adventure.
This is a moving and inspirational book, so if you don't have the time to read it, then at least buy a copy for your wife, sister or niece. In fact, I am sending my copy to my niece in Concord NH because I think it will give her some real inspiration and she will enjoy reading Sara's story.
on February 11, 2002
Sara Hall has transcended the memoir genre with this inspirational account of the emotional and physical pain she underwent in order to evolve into a fully-integrated human being --and also,along the way, become the World's Masters Champion in the woman's single shell, one of the most demanding sports in the world. Marital abuse comes in many forms, and in Hall's case, the years of verbal disparagement and icy indifference left no physical scars - but the mental damage to her psyche was profound. The day that turned her life around was the day she glimpsed a figure racing along the water in a rowing shell and, like Paul on the road to Damascus, she was forever changed. What followed was the grueling effort (often surreptitious as well, as her husband did not approve of any activity of hers not related to the house or the children)to become proficient in an extremely demanding sport. That she was 44 at the time did not deter her. That she had to sneak out of the house in the pre-dawn hours to practice, without coach or companion, did not deter her. She knew in her heart and soul and gut that she wanted to do this, and to do it well. As she gained confidence in her abilities, she also found herself strong enough to break away from the suffocating circumstances of her personal life. Both her athletic skills and her growing self-confidence have been achieved at great cost.
The physical agony of turning oneself into a champion in any sport has rarely been described as well as this. It makes one realize that most of us will never have that defining moment experienced by Hall, and we certainly don't have the mental stamina and will power to arrive at the point where she now finds herself. Her writing is lyrical, tough, funny, and very honest. If she decides to leave the world of rowing, she has a bright literary future.
on March 7, 2002
Sara Hall has done something in her book, Drawn to the Rythm, that until now I thought was impossible. She addresses issues of spousal abuse without accusing an entire gender. Sara found comfort in a grueling sport, rowing, and an escape route from a troubling relationship with her husband. In becoming a World Champion she has offered a sterling example of the kind of strength it takes for anyone to set themselves free. Her writing style is almost musical, a tribute to her mother I suspect. Her story is heroic, in honor of all the strong men and women in her life - father, uncle, mentors, coaches, competitors, sons, daughters and yes, even her husband. Sara says that what a winner looks like is "a woman who lets go of her demons and takes her strength into the world." This is exactly what she has done in Drawn to the Rythm. She has found in her rowing (and her writing) ways to triumph over bitterness, sorrow, resignation and anger. If only all champions had such grace.
on July 4, 2002
Ostensibly about a mid-life woman's "falling in love with a boat" and her struggles toward a realization of her personal gifts. Very feminine yet gender-neutral in its lessons, this memoir is an intimate look at a personal transformation achieved in emotional hardship but propelled by a sense of love, a sense of G-d's guidance, hardheaded Rocky-like stubborness, and lessons learned from childrens' stories like Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid. This book is a very good read and possibly personally transformational. Be prepared to get wiser as you read. I just bought it for my Gen X daughter. It's the sequel to REVIVING OPHELIA that I bought for her 8 years ago.
on January 30, 2002
Ms. Hall provides inspiration for all women (or men) in an abusive and controlling situation. She is a survivor who found her passion, stuck by her children and finally had the courage to stand up for herself. Ms. Hall's writing is free-flowing, touching, honest but not scornful. Her "rising above" the challenges that faced her and still maintaining a positive attitude are truly admirable. I highly recommend this to all people searching for their "passion" because this book gives you hope that anything is possible, even for a 40-something mom.
on January 28, 2002
This is a beautiful book which I could hardly put down. It is particularly inspirational for women, however the message is universal. You can find your passion and be true to yourself. Usually stories of domestic abuse are clearly black and white but Hall's story is full of complexity and marvelous shades of gray. Kudos to Hall for pursuing her dream and breaking free from a damaging relationship. Readers are in for a treat with Hall's lyrical and moving descriptions of rowing. This is clearly a very special book!
on March 22, 2002
I started this book because my son is a rower and I'd hoped to learn a bit more about the techniques and the mindset of rowers. Sara Hall provides that, but so much more. Her account of coming to grips with an abusive relationship is delicate and sensitive. Many middle-class women can see themselves caught in a subtle dance with a domineering, controlling, cagey husband. The strength she finds through rowing and her connection to community is beautifully portrayed. I encourage every woman to read it.