The Most Distant Way
by Ewan Gault
Please see below for giveaway information!
“The most distant way in the world is not the way from birth to end.”
The significance of this quote becomes tragically apparent as you read through Ewan Gault's The Most Distant Way, which takes you on a journey through the eyes of Scottish 19-year-olds Mike and Kirsten, who are aspiring competitive runners sent to Kenya's Rift Valley to train at a high altitude training centre. They have been staying at an orphanage and farm set up by a former world class Kenyan athlete. They are a week from returning home at the start of the book with their majority of their experience of living and training in Africa behind them, but soon are faced with the perils of the country coming up to an election and they spend time in Nairobi and Mombasa on their return journey to the UK. Both Mike and Kirsten have emotional issues regarding their return to home. Each chapter is told alternately from Mike and Kirsten's point of view. This threw me initially at chapter two as it occurred without notice but after chapter three I got into the habit of swapping heads at the end of each chapter. The characters Mike and Kirsten could not be more different and their differing approaches to their experiences is what makes this book affecting to read. Exposed to the stark poverty and lack of infrastructure in the country around them as well as enduring the rigorous training programme they are expected to excel in to make them better athletes, our two protagonists also hide insecurities of their own, which Gault explores during the course of the book. Mike is being coached by Kirsten's father who was a famed athlete and a famous coach known for getting results. Mike's own father is, unusually, not a past competitor in this sport and this has lead to there being much distance between father and son.
This is a very visual book as the descriptions put you right there under the sun experiencing the sights, smells and sounds with the characters. It is well written and easy to read even though there is no wham-bam high octane plot; it is more about getting to know Kenya, its people, Mike and Kirsten as they prepare to return to the UK from their training, and seeing the world through their eyes. The book reveals the vulnerabilities and the flaws in each of the characters but makes them both likeable and hence absorbing to the reader.
The technical aspect of their training is described relevantly and accurately to be alluring but not take over the narrative. The story flows at a pace that makes it easy to put down and pick up. It is achingly frank in parts and does not hold back in describing the desperation and violence around at the time Mike and Kirsten journey to Kenya. The author sensitively but honestly presents the experience of the characters in the book from his own personal experience of training in Kenya. I became attached to Mike and Kirsten, without knowing it or actually meaning to, about a third of the way through the book. Whereas Mike retains the reticence of a foreigner abroad at the start of the book, Kirsten wants to immerse herself in the culture and is sympathetic to the people and problems around her. Mike's apathy contrasts to her take on what they are both experiencing and when he can tear himself away from being the know-it-all, carefully measuring and plotting his measurements to chart his progress, we see that Mike does have a human side and his apathy does slip for the people around him. Both characters I think will resonate with readers. The people they have left at home are very much a part of this story as the people they interact with. Both characters are well developed and the writer reveals more and more about each one as you read through the book.
The harsh realities not just of their environment in Kenya during training but also the competitive and ruthless nature of cross-country running is also a central theme of the book and the impact of gruelling character-building training on each character is very different. I found that I got more urgently drawn into the book past the 70% mark. This book will appeal to those who enjoy reading about travel and physical training but it has an undeniable human-interest core theme that makes it appealing to anyone. An enjoyable début from a promising new writer.
Ewan Gault has generously offered two giveaways: an e-book version and a paperback. To get your name in the hat for the draw, simply comment below or at our Facebook link here.