An elite ultra-runner bent on success, her faithful dog always by her side, and a touch of spiritualism-by-way-of-reincarnation all combine in this unique and compelling drama.
An ultramarathon, by definition, is any race longer than the typical marathon’s twenty-six (and change) miles. But there’s so much more to an ‘ultra’ than simply taking another post-finish line lap around the block. Often run on single-track trails by numbers far smaller than your average big-city race, ultramarathoning is the epitome of a niche sport—one that attracts a unique breed of athlete. Catherine Matsalla’s THROUGH THE EYES OF BLUE combines this unique setting with a ‘girl and her dog’ premise, offering readers a timeless tale of love and redemption.
THROUGH THE EYES OF BLUE opens with Giselle (‘Elle’ to those who know her), a promising endurance runner with baggage to spare, picking out a puppy she names Blue. A Husky (or maybe Border Collie—she isn’t quite sure), Australian-Shepherd mix, Blue was born to run, making for the perfect partner. Almost immediately, Elle begins to notice some unusual things about her dog—from Blue’s immediate obedience to his myriad of facial expressions, Elle can’t quite shake the feeling that her dog somehow already knew her. Blue’s secret? The dog is actually the reincarnated soul of someone who cares deeply about Elle. Forgoing a college scholarship, Elle jumps right into her racing career. Following a triumphant seventh-place finish at her first big race, Elle signs up for a 50k just a few weeks later. It’s here where Elle gets her first taste of humble pie, ‘bonking’ at kilometer forty and barely trudging across the finish line. Undeterred, Elle’s life soon revolves around her race calendar, and slowly but surely, she begins collecting wins, even landing herself on the cover of Ultra World magazine. Elle’s growing fame soon lands her a lucrative, life-altering deal with a sponsor, and for a moment, it looks as though all of her hard work has finally paid off. From there, Elle tackles one difficult situation after another. Be it the complex relationship with her mother or navigating the unforeseen challenges of success and the envy it breeds, Blue is always by her side, supporting and defending her in any way he can.
Bouncing back and forth between dual first-person perspectives, Matsalla utilizes Blue’s observations to great effect, giving Elle’s narrative context. Unfortunately, knowing the story’s central conceit from the onset feels like a tension-robbing misstep. While Elle’s running career is clearly the meat of this story, the idea of Blue attempting to discover who he really is could have added a sense of mystery to what is an otherwise linear narrative. That subjective critique aside, Matsalla’s refined prose is refreshing. Be it Elle’s ascent to the top of her sport, Blue’s meta-spiritual quest for redemption, or the mother/daughter conflict brewing throughout, there’s a lot of competing elements here, and for the most part, Matsalla manages to weave them together in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Taking the age-old adage ‘write what you know’ to heart, Matsalla leans heavily on her personal experience as an Ironman competitor, channeling vivid glimpses into the race experience that will immediately resonate with any endurance athlete. While it’s impossible to say just how much of the author’s personal story is reflected within the story, the air of authenticity permeating the pages of THROUGH THE EYES OF BLUE is palpable.
Exploring the niche, albeit growing ultra-endurance community through the eyes of a promising young athlete and her trusty dog, Catherine Matsalla’s THROUGH THE EYES OF BLUE is a compelling drama that touches upon the timeless themes of perseverance and redemption.~James Weiskittel for IndieReader