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The fun, pink cover of The Bright Side Running Club caught my attention immediately, and the synopsis earned it an immediate spot on my TBR. Though I have been a runner for a few years now, I still haven’t read many stories that center running, so that aspect of the book appealed to me.
When I saw that Authentic Books had selected this for their special-edition Valentine’s Day box, that sealed the deal, and so, the book made its way to me along with some chocolates and pour-over coffee.
If you’re not familiar with The Bright Side Running Club yet, here’s a quick snippet from the Goodreads synopsis:
When Keira first receives her breast cancer diagnosis, she never expects to end up joining a running group with three women she’s only just met. Totally blind-sided, all she can think about is how she doesn’t want to tell her family or step back from work. Nor does she want to be part of a group of fellow cancer patients. Cancer is not her club.
And yet it’s running — hot, sweaty, lycra-clad running in the company of brilliant, funny women all going through treatment — that unexpectedly gives Keira the hope she so urgently needs.
What I Liked
This book does a wonderful job of making Keira and the entire Bright Side Running Club into robust, rounded characters. They aren’t just “women with cancer” but each have their own goals and personalities outside the diagnosis.
Though I’ve never had cancer or yet known someone who has, the book’s approach to the struggles of balancing medical treatment, illness, and the rest of your life felt very real to me. I like that we got to see Keira’s frustration with the way some people in her life avoid the word “cancer” altogether, as if it’s contagious. The author draws from her own experience with breast cancer, and I think you can really feel this in the pages — it’s a very realistic, lived-in portrayal of illness.
Keira’s positive attitude and the ways in which it gets challenged as her treatment progresses were both highlights of the book for me, as well. I liked seeing her cope with a difficult diagnosis and also grow into taking her health more seriously, without giving in to despair or overdoing it.
There are a lot of good, “mark it with a pen” lines throughout, as Keira and her friends try to ensure that their lives have meaning and that they’re chasing their dreams, now they’ve such a stark reminder of how short life can be.
Finally, the short chapters make this a very quick read, in spite of the sometimes-heavy subject matter.
What I Didn’t Like
Some of the plot points thrown in for extra tensnion on top of the struggle with her illness felt a bit forced. In particular, the work plot was frustrating to watch and felt very obvious to me, making it hard to watch Keira spend most of the book not piecing it together.
Ditto with a certain aspect of the strain on her marriage with her husband. I think the cancer and treatment would’ve been difficult enough without adding in the extra layer, which I found a bit overdone in a book that’s tackling so much already.
I did appreciate the acknowlegement that the rest of life doesn’t stop just because you’ve gotten sick, and that other problems still go on. I just wanted those problems to be a bit less… obvious, I guess?
In all, this falls solidly somewhere between four and five stars for me. I really enjoyed the tone and pacing, but did wish the book’s “villains” weren’t quite so obvious and moustache-twirling. Even so, I found myself eager to see how everything panned out and rooting for Keira and the other women in the Bright Side Running Club.
I recommend The Bright Side Running Club to anyone who has struggled with a serious and/or life changing illness (when you’re ready to read about the same), to fans of women’s fiction and stories about groups of friends supporting one another through difficult times.
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