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More Than A Sports Book And Beyond Inspiring,
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This review is from: My Call to the Ring: A Memoir of a Girl Who Yearns to Box (Kindle Edition)
Having worked with a lot of designers and photographers, I'll admit that the cover of this book was the first solid punch it delivered. This is not a hastily written book for inclusion in the revolution of publishing. This book has substance spanning the cover and continuing all the way to the back page, which I left with tears streaming down my face. I don't even like boxing. But I do like memoir, and this ranks right up there with the best of them.
The story of Deirdre Gogharty's call to boxing, in a world where pretty little girls don't expose their faces and breasts to such abuse, could easily have fallen into boring repetition of punches and battles and, let's face it, trite tales of conquering the odds. As Deirdre rises above her obstacles, the storytelling keeps rising right along with her. Let's be honest about the obstacles life throws at us. Somewhere in the unfairness of things there is anger, there is the urge to strike out. I'm tired of gentle souls who repress everything under a cloak of Zen tranquility and happy dances. It's gritty and tough getting past those obstacles, and this book gives the reader a hearty dose of how we can direct those very human negative reactions with a body punch to the big bad unfairness we'll all encounter. Deirdre does achieve that center of calm and forgiveness and triumph, but not before she battles her way through a whole bunch of hurt and anger. The trite but true way most handle that anger is drugs, sex, or taking off to travel strange corners of the world where they sit at the feet of masters who help them change their heart and soul and lives.
Nobody helps Deirdre develop her character except Deirdre. Instead of the same-old, same-old stories of self-destruction before redemption, this is a story of self-building through grinding physical training and standing strong as the punches come directly at her face. Without ever waving her own flag and shouting, "Look at me!" Deirdre keeps pulling herself off the mat and digging deeper and deeper inside herself for the will to remain standing, even when the fight is dirty and the opponent is breaking all the rules. The reader can't remove their eyes, or heart, from her. How and why this extrodinary little girl made the choice of throwing her anger outward in a disciplined, calculated, and non-destructive path goes against everything we've been taught to believe about the human psyche. That uniqueness of character sticks to Deirdre like the Vaseline smeared all over her body before a bout. She abandons all the easy ways of easing her inner destruction--suicide, bitterness, self-destruction, destruction of others, clinging to home and family--and wins.
Deirdre's story is astounding, but it's how this story is told that delivers it to the reader with passion, constraint, and blazing artistry. I lived in Vegas for 30 years and daily drove past Tyson's home on my way to work, which was two doors down from the boxing gym owned and run by Mohammad Ali's daughter. I've crossed paths with Don King so many times the desire to brush that head of hair has worn off. It isn't that I don't like boxing as much as I'm simply not impressed. But Darrelyn Saloom's writing is so outstanding that I was sucker-punched into the story without ever seeing her writer's hand at work. She steps back from the story at just the right times and lets the story tell itself, yet there are passages of beautiful prose I had to read again and again to figure out how she did it. Deirdre's story is one of boxing match after boxing match, and that can get old fast, but not with Saloom bringing the reader inside the ring and pumped up with every punch thrown. That's not an easy task, but she did it. Without knowing anything beyond the pomp of boxing, this reader easily followed the technicalities of a boxing match, knowing when the fight was dirty, which combination of blows was working or thwarted, and caring deeply about the outcome. Caring about a gawky little girl whose struggle follows her from childhood through agonizing years of budding adulthood. I can't figure out how Saloom pulled that off, despite my years working as a development editor. This is writing at its best. A knockout.
It's been a long time since I've read a book I had to put down so I could walk outside and have a good cry, then pick up the book again and throw back my head in laughter. Deirdre, sweetheart, what were you thinking when you bought that limousine? For the past year, I've lived in the River Valley Region of Arkansas and often drive into Ft. Smith for shopping and our beloved coffee. Since finishing this book, I can't make that drive without thinking about Deirdre and her first bouts fought there. Wow! Deirdre was here! How cool is that? I scan the many photos I've taken of the same tourist attractions Deirdre visited and share the same excitement of the hanging gallows as Deirdre. It takes an incredible journey told with the help of a skilled writer to pull a story so deeply inside the reader that it becomes a part of them.
There's gratitude in having found this book and devoured it. Deirdre has answered the question of just how long can a person hang on and keep fighting. Saloom has answered the question of how a writer can cross subject matter filled with landmines of failure without stepping on any of them. And living here in the tongue of the buckle of the Bible Belt, which is often oppressive, this book has taught me how to rise above my own doubts of faith and pray again from the heart without fear of an heartless God.
Reading is time spent that can never be recovered. That's the way it usually works, but with this book, the time spent is repaid with compound interest, giving back much more than initially invested.
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