Wow. I was just blown away by WHO SHE IS by Diane Byington. WHO SHE IS is Byington’s debut novel, and it will be released on March 20, 2018, by Red Adept Publishing, LLC.
WHO SHE IS stars Faye Smith, a teenage girl growing up in the late 1960s. In the fall of 1967, Faye and her parents move to Valencia, Florida, to work in the orange groves as tenant farmers. Frequent moves and poverty is the life that Faye is used to. But that doesn’t mean that she’s happy with it. Faye dreams of something more for her adult life – something that takes her away from her parents and their goal to keep her with them. At her new school, Faye befriends a girl named Frankie. Together, the two girls begin training to run the Boston Marathon in the spring. In the late 1960s, women are not allowed to officially register for the Boston Marathon (this won’t happen until 1972), but that doesn’t stop Faye and Frankie from striving to break barriers and prove that women are just as capable of running as men. It seems almost laughable to me that just twenty years before I was born, it was believed that women shouldn’t run because it could cause their female organs to fall out. Faye’s parents believe running is a useless hobby, and they push for Faye to give it up. Faye agrees to quit the track team after she makes the national news for being the first female in Florida to run in a track meet against boys. But Faye refuses to give up long-distance running because it is one thing that makes her happy. And it’s possible that she could get a college scholarship by running in the Boston Marathon.
While the novel follows Faye’s training and the issues that her running causes her family – her parents believe that all of this running will trigger her epilepsy and cause her to have a seizure – it also focuses on Faye’s search to discover who she really is. It quickly becomes clear that things aren’t quite right in the Smith family. There is something going on that extends beyond the typical family squabbles. Faye begins to have memories of another life with different parents. As she digs into her past, Faye realizes she might not be safe with the Smiths. After running away to run in the Boston Marathon, Faye learns that the Smiths are not her parents and that she was kidnapped as a child.
WHO SHE IS is a wonderful novel. I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to know the answer to who Faye really is. Faye is a strong and determined female character, as is her best friend, Frankie. The fact that they are only sixteen years old and are training to run in the Boston Marathon despite the fact that women aren’t allowed to register for it is amazing. Having grown up playing in various female sports leagues, it’s hard for me to imagine that not too long before I was born, females were discourage and banned from playing sports. I was inspired by Faye’s and Frankie’s determination. I was also captivated by Faye’s search into what happened to her when she was a child. The mystery of whether the Smiths are her real parents was fascinating. It added an extra element to the novel. Since the novel takes place in the south in the late 1960s, Byington was able to touch on several topics that were relevant during that time period. Not only does Byington address women’s rights, she also touches on Civil Rights (the man training Faye and Frankie is an African American black male) as well as the Vietnam War.
I would suggest WHO SHE IS to anyone who is interested in women’s rights and women in sports.