Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book review: Wonder Girl

When I was 8 years old, I set a goal for myself to read all the biographies in our school library. I think I only made it through to the letter "D" by the end of the year, but it gave me a lifelong love of true stories about interesting people.  I especially like to read books about people that I don't know much about, so when Wonder Girl, a new book about Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Don Van Natta Jr., arrived in my mailbox, I was a happy little book reviewer. Here's a bit about this book, from the publisher's website:
This is the extraordinary story of a nearly forgotten American superstar athlete.

Texas girl Babe Didrikson never tried a sport too tough and never met a hurdle too high. Despite attempts to keep women from competing, Babe achieved All-American status in basketball and won gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics.

Then Babe attempted to conquer golf.

One of the founders of the LPGA, Babe won more consecutive tournaments than any golfer in history. At the height of her fame, she was diagnosed with cancer. Babe would then take her most daring step of all: go public and try to win again with the hope of inspiring the world.

A rollicking saga, stretching across the first half of the 20th century, WONDER GIRL is as fresh, heartfelt, and graceful as Babe herself.
This was a different book than many of the biographies that I've read, for the simple reason that the the subject of the book, Babe Didrickson Zaharias, wasn't the most lovable or even likable person, especially in her early life. And the author definitely doesn't try to sugarcoat that fact. He presents her as she was- a person who was singlemindedly focused on being the absolute best athlete that she could be, no matter what anyone else thought.  It was interesting to read this book and feel a combination of dislike for how Babe handled her relationships with teammates and competitors, while simultaneously feeling admiration for her incredible hard work and achievements. 

In the end, I thought this book was fascinating and well-written, and it was really interesting to learn so much about the life of this largely forgotten superstar of the early 20th century. No, I didn't always like Babe as I read her story, but when I got to the end of the book I was glad that I had taken the time to get to know her.  She worked hard to open doors for herself and by doing so, she changed women's sports forever.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review for myself, thanks to the Hachette Book Group. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions posted here are mine and mine alone.