Angie Abdou’s The Bone Cage is not only entertaining and well-written, but it gives a great snapshot of the daily life of elite athletes.

Featuring the Olympic training camps of wrestler Digger and swimmer Sadie, the book traces the highs, lows and grinding fatigue that is part of these athletes’ lives. The book opens with a scene in which Digger and his teammates sweat to cut weight, and anyone who’s struggled with the psychological drain of sweating off pounds will relate.

Beyond Abdou’s story-telling, the book has two particularly interesting themes that relate to elite amateur sport. First, The Bone Cage explores how the practice of sport at the National and International level can become a self-centred way of life. Because they are required to give4 so much to better performance, elite athletes spend most of their time and energy in practice. This leaves little else for a family- or romantic life. At the amateur level, where athletes are usually living on very little while they train and compete, many individuals also give their careers a back seat. It’s interesting to follow the lives of Digger and Sadie as they negotiate family tragedy and financial stress.

For me, however, the most interesting aspect of the book, is the theme of retirement from the sport. Both of the protagonists are at the end of their competitive careers. The Bone Cage gives real insight into what it feels like to be so unfocused–with all your and your family and community’s energies and efforts directed at one goal. It highlights what it must feel like when, from one day to the next, you lose this focus because it is time to move on, and you go back to being a ‘civilian’. From a Buddhist point of view, it’s a great story about letting go.

Anyone who is or has been seriously involved in sport will relate to this story about what happens the day after your last fight. It’s also just a good read though. I recommended the book to my brother, who’s not involved in the serious competitive sport. After he asked me: “Why would you ever want to cut weight ?”, he told me he really enjoyed the book.

So it seems you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy The Bone Cage. 

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