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Henry Tuttle: The Boy Who Ran to Glory

Henry Tuttle
The Boy Who Ran to Glory

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Before you read this book, here’s some helpful advice: Lace up your favorite sneakers, fill your water bottle with spring water, and grab some energy bars. Now you are ready to try to keep up with Henry Tuttle: The Boy Who Loved to Run.

Historian and mystery writer Waights Taylor Jr., taking his first turn at young adult fiction, has fashioned a fast-paced story of a Northern California teen whose love of running takes him from the peaks of the Trinity Alps to the pinnacle of road racing, the Boston Marathon at the age of 18.

As Henry recalls his story of growing up in the late Sixties to George, an enthusiastic young runner of today, intertwined themes of fierce loyalty to family and friends and of burning passion for running resonate across generational lines as if past and present are somehow conjoined.

Henry’s narrative rises and falls with mountainous roads above Weaverville, where he has run to school and back from his home six miles up in the rugged country since he was ten years old. He stands up to Billy, the school bully—and then becomes his best friend. He deals with the sweet new experience of “liking a girl,” then whether or not he is “going steady” with her, and finally what it feels like when that girl, Jane, leaves for college in Boston two thousand miles away.

Henry’s character—as well as the quality of his relationship with Jane—are tested on several fronts. First Jane and Henry cover the trial of Billy’s father for the violent abuse of his family and learn about the criminal justice system. They volunteer to help fight a ravaging wildfire—and save a man’s life—while learning valuable lessons about ecology, conservation, and global warming. They work together to capture Billy’s father, who has escaped from prison with the the stated intention of killing his son, and in doing so discover some hard truths about law enforcement.

Henry’s story really takes off with the starting gun of the 1969 Boston Marathon, which he enters in part to test himself and in part to see Jane, who is going to school in Boston. Here Taylor’s writing takes off also. As Henry traverses the fabled Boston course, his thoughts and feelings flow with the rhythm of footsteps pushing forward toward the next landmark or the next curve, from the girls of Wellesley to the hills of Newton and beyond. In crackling counterpoint, radio announcers provide race commentary from a distant vantage point, creating a palpable emotive tension as the race enfolds.

Waights steers the grueling 26.2-mile race into home stretch past the famous Citgo sign with a deft touch, nuancing each step toward the finish line as Henry battles the crushing weight of fatigue, desperately searching for the meaning of the moment and why he was there.

Spoiler alert: The intrepid young hero crosses the Boston Marathon finish line. Life goes on. But the story is hardly over. Not by (or for) a long shot such as Henry Tuttle.
—James Retherford—Writer, editor, graphic designer, Austin, Texas.

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