Wednesday, December 30, 2015

loopyker's #CBR7 Review #07: Unsinkable: A Memoir by Silken Laumann

Many Canadians like myself remember Silken Laumann's amazing perseverance after a severe leg injury, to win a bronze medal only 10 weeks later at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.  Even without the gold, she was one of the hero stories of the game, and certainly an important one for Canada.

One day, I happened across an interview to hear her talking about her memoir, Unsinkable.  She sounded quite passionate and open about her life, so I looked forward to reading it. After a long wait on my library's list, I was expecting something like a Canadian version of Kevin Sorbo's book True Strength, that I enjoyed reviewing in 2012.

But, maybe my expectations were just too high.  Many people give Silken's book top reviews, but it fell a little flat for me.  It had a lot of interesting parts to it.  But, I didn't connect with it much personally, like I did with True Strength.

I did find the behind-the-scenes glimpses of the rowing community, her injury and women's sport interesting, but not gossipy.

There is no doubt that she is brave for talking about an abusive mother and how that has impacted her into adulthood.  Even as a top athlete, she talks about how she suffered from body image issues, anorexia and depression.

I think a lot of this can have value to people who suffer from similar situations.  She is pushing back at the stigma of abuse and depression in a meaningful way by encouraging dialogue about it.  She talks openly about needing counselling even though she was an "inspirational speaker" for so many others at the time.  Appearances can be deceiving.  Over time, Silken learned how to work through her issues and achieve a healthier balance of sport, art, music, parenting, marriage and career.

Motherhood is also a big part of the book after she has a daughter with ADD and a step-daughter with severe autism.  It is great to see how she works at being a completely different mother to her children than she experienced herself.

However, a lot of this became repetitious to me and over-analytical.  I don't know if it was because of an athlete's perspective or all of the time she has spent in counselling and journalling to get out her raw emotions.  It lost too much of the emotional connection and became preachy at times.

As with so many athletes, there can be a fine line between being inspirational and blaming the victim if they can't achieve their goals. It is a different mind-set that I've bumped up against when dealing with rehabilitation of athletic injuries versus the average person just trying to get back to a somewhat normal life after a life-changing injury.  I felt like there were times that were hard to tell where Silken fell, so it didn't make me interested in hearing her inspirational talks.  Although, since her interview did get me excited about her book, maybe she is a better speaker than the book led me to believe.

I have a lot of respect for Silken and hope she continues to find that balance she works hard for.

2.5 stars

Title: Unsinkable: A Memoir (or My Untold Story, in later versions)
Author: Silken Laumann
Formats: paperback/hardcover/Kindle ebook
Print length: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers (November 4, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1443419087
ISBN-13: 978-1443419086

Rating system:
1 star (didn't like); 2 stars (OK); 3 stars (good); 4 stars (very good); 5 stars (favourite)
Also check out Cannonball Read for a variety of book reviews from many others.

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