1936 was a hard year for a lot of people, but in backwater Seattle something exciting was happening–the crew team from the University of Washington was preparing for the row of their lives at the Olympic Games in Berlin. As the youngest team with the least experience, the UW crew team were the obvious underdogs but despite all of this, they were determined to beat the odds.
This book primarily focuses on the life of Joe Rantz–one of the boys to make it with that crew team to the 1936 Olympic Games. The reader is transported to 1930’s America where we’re given a view of how desperately Americans needed something to cheer for. The United States was still recovering from the first World War when the Great Depression hit and many people were having a hard time making ends meet. Joe Rantz was no exception. He only joined the crew team in order to help him pay for his schooling but it wasn’t long before he fell in love with the sport and the feeling of being out on the water. Despite facing a trying childhood where he’d been abandoned multiple times by his father and his family Joe would need to learn about love, life, and how to trust in his teammates. Joe and the other boys in his crew only had one chance to win. With everyone back home depending on them and war looming on the horizon, the boys in the boat would have to give this last race everything that they had and more.
Brown takes readers on an emotional journey as he weaves the backstories of those involved with descriptions of just how difficult rowing actually is. Even though the ending is already set in stone, given the circumstances leading up to the final race readers will doubt that the boys from Seattle will really be able to pull this off.