The first thing worth saying is that I should apologize to my friend for taking two years to read her book.
The second thing worth saying is that Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath is beautiful and quirky and encouraging, and I love it even though I can never remember the order of verbs in its title.
Because I know author Jennifer Brownell personally, on every page I hear her voice chatting and interweaving stories from her childhood and adulthood, from church to pool to hospital. And to my reader’s ear, she laughs easily through the stories as she does in real life, highlighting the odd and the comical in order to soften the impact of the book’s honesty about fear: childhood fears and adulting fears, fears of real life-and-death matters, fears and challenges of flesh, like the work of living in a body and the work of loving another body.
It’s the honesty that makes Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe so accessible and endearing and comforting, like sitting with a girlfriend over coffee and swapping troubles to remind one another that you’re not alone. (Although since we’re friends already, the next time Jennifer and I sit together over coffee we’ll need to talk first about our shared love of Free to Be You and Me and try to recite “Boy Meets Girl” together … and then we can discuss the deeper topic of incarnation.)
Because, like any good book, Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe is about more than it says it’s about, and Brownell’s book isn’t so much a memoir about a triathlon as it is a memoir about incarnate grace — of mercy and delight through (and sometimes despite) the flesh.
It’s not a hero’s story. It’s not a memoir of exceptionalism. It’s a tale of faith that acknowledges — without snark or animosity — life’s hardships and fears but still attests that love remains.
And that’s the most important part: that love remains.
Thank you, Jennifer, for this beautiful reminder and for putting to paper how you caught your breath.