Perfectly timed for an Olympic year, this fascinating story follows two parallel sporting lives. It re-imagines the life of celebrated gold medallist Eric Liddell and gives a fresh perspective through the eyes of Lili, a twelve-year-old Chinese Scot, for whom his trials come to have particular resonance.
Lili has a big race to prepare for – a sprint in front of the Queen, which she hopes will showcase her talent and enable her to beat her nemesis, Tom – but it turns out that no amount of training can equip her for the changes and choices that lie ahead.
While a shared love of running initially links Eric’s story to Lili’s, as events unfold and she researches his history for a school project, we discover that they face other similar challenges, particularly balancing a focus on their sport with duties and passions outside of it.
Liddell may be best known for his triumph in the 400m at the 1924 Olympics, but where this story excels is in illuminating the years after, when his dedication to missionary work took him back to China, caring for the injured, evacuating a hospital and eventually being imprisoned. It is an insightful reminder that there’s nearly always more to the story after the spotlight fades.
The Race is an inspiring and multi-layered read that both celebrates sport and assesses it. It gets off to a sprint start, but as the two runners chase their bumpy destinies, it evolves into an engrossing distance event, in which they face hurdles and select strategies, and ultimately remind us that determination, compassion and love have greater value than glory.