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Sep 09

Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard – Reviewed by Milly Adams

 

This for me is the book of the decade.

 

Finding Gobi is hailed as a true story of a little dog and an incredible journey. Well, it is. But it’s so much more. In fact, for me it’s the book of the decade. Beautifully written, full of pace, tension and sensitivity,  it charts Dion Leonard’s journey from a single minded seasoned, and highly competitive, but solitary ultra-marathon runner, into an empathetic companionable rounded young man. A young man, moreover who becomes driven by far more than the need to win. He has to save Gobi, who has, in so many ways changed or even saved him.

This true story is about a man and a small stray dog, Gobi, adopts Leonard as the ultra-marathon runner participates in the gruelling 155 mile race across the Gobi Desert. Gobi extraordinarily keeps up with him, mile after mile, day after day,  in scorching heat until balked by a wide river..Dion  Leonard is a quarter of the way across the river when he realises that Gobi is not able to follow him into the fast flowing water. Does he drive on to keep up his time, or does he go back to help this little stray, who has chosen him? It’s not an easy decision but reluctantly Dion Leonard finds himself jeapardizing his chances of achieving a win. He turns around, collects Gobi and carries her across the torrent. And on they go, together. Soon the other runners are rooting for Gobi too, and many thousands on social media as well, not to mention the press.

By the end of the race Leonard knows he can’t leave Gobi here, to whatever fate might await her, He must bring her ‘home’ to Edinburgh.. His beloved wife supports him in this, as do those who have been following Gobi’s progress. Money is raised. But that’s not by any means the end, and it’s a spoiler to tell you more.

What I will tell you is that Dion Leonard had little interest beyond running, but not just running – winning. By the end running has been relegated into a part of his life and hope, resilience  and friendship have taken first place. All because of Gobi.

The book for me was unputdownable. It is a voyage of discovery, a coming to terms with his difficult past for Dion, a past that is seamlessly introduced and explored seamlessly throughout the book.

In Goby and Dion’s journey things go wrong, things go right, and the support of strangers is heart warming, not just for the reader, but for Leonard who at last begins to accept help and support, and to realise that others, apart from his wife, have his best interests at heart.

As I said, beautifully written and love triumphs but boy, does it have to be worked for.  I hadn’t realised that the Marathon des Sables and the Yukon were two of the hardest marathons as is mentioned in the book

My son did them.. One day Matt, an ordiinary  marathon runner, said, ‘Oh, forgot to tell you,  I’m off to run across a desert.’ He did, finished, and then a short time later he did the Yukon but came across another competitor in danger in the extreme cold and stayed overnight, to keep her stable, forfeiting his place. He returned the next year and finished. Therefore, yes I have an interest in  ultra-marathon running:  the concentration and training, but also the need to be aware and involved in the other competitors when need be. A bit like life really.

I also have dogs, but even if I hadn’t, this book would have hooked me. Two days straight reading, lump in throat, relief, lump in throat, relief…

This book should be required reading for schools, colleges and basically everyone. The message is:: keep going, keep hoping,  support others as well as yourself and accept support. Be aspirational but know how to be a open to others. Keep your moral compass, in other words.

Brilliant: in a world of derivative books, this is a diamond.

There is a child’s version too. This is your Christmas present list sorted for all ages.

 Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard Harper Nonfiction. 1st June 2017 hb £12.99

Finding Gobi. Young readers edition. pb  £5.98

Both available  in ebooks.