BookBrowse Reviews Grayson by Lynne Cox

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by Lynne Cox

Grayson by Lynne Cox X
Grayson by Lynne Cox
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2006, 160 pages

    Feb 2008, 160 pages


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About this Book



The true story of long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox's ocean encounter with an 18-foot baby whale

I opened this little book (160 small pages) with a certain degree of trepidation because animal stories, whether they be tales of favored pets or encounters in the wild, are a mixed bag. My worries didn't last long - Grayson is a pure delight that reads like a fable but is actually true. At the center of the story is Lynne Cox, now a renowned long-distance swimmer, but then just a 17-years-old out for a practice swim early one morning in the waters off Seal Beach in Southern California.

The whale tale forms the center of the story but, for me, it was the bit players that stole the show - the rays wallowing in the warm water under the pier, the sun fish snoozling close to the legs of the oil rig, the green sea turtles "carrying their homes along with them like aquatic RVs" and the herd of dolphins vying with each other to perform the most dare-devilish tricks (I thought the collective noun for dolphins was pod, but Lynne refers to them as a herd, and I'm not the landlubber to question her!)

A couple of reviewers felt that some of Lynne Cox's observations were a little overdone (such as "if I believe, if I work toward something ... the impossible isn't impossible at all"). I beg to disagree. Firstly, such comments are few and far between and secondly, if they were issuing from the mouth of the latest "motivational speaker" I would probably agree, but coming from Lynne they seem to be a simple statement of fact (see below for her extraordinary biography). All in all, this is an adult book that can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages from about 12-years upwards.

What I found particularly poignant, for want of a better word, is that Lynne waited 30 years to write down her story, but during this time she has obviously pondered over her experience many times and even made it a foundational event on which to build her life. However, when she returned to her family late for breakfast that day she says simply, "I told my mother and father what had happened that morning. I told them I had swum with a baby whale and that friends had helped him find his mother. I didn't make a big deal about it." This leads me to wonder what experiences our own children have had or will have which will prove pivotal in their lives, and how many of these we as parents, perhaps even they, will be aware of at the time!

About the Author
At age 9 Lynne Cox began her swimming career in Manchester, NH with the Manchester Swim Team. Her coach was Ben Muritt, the Harvard University coach. At age 12, Lynne moved with her family to Los Alamitos California where she began training with Don Gambril, coach of four US Olympic Swim teams.

When she was 14 she swam across the Catalina Channel with a group of teenagers from Seal Beach, California. They swam a distance of 27 miles in 12 hours and 36 minutes. The following year (1972) she swam across the English Channel and shattered the men's and women's world records with a time of 9 hours and 57 minutes. A year later she returned to England and broke the men's world record for the English Channel a second time with a time of 9 hours and 36 minutes. At 17 she returned to the Catalina Channel and broke the men's and women's world records with a time of 8 hours and 48 minutes. The year after that, at 18 years old, she became the first woman to swim across Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Her time was 12 hour and 2 1/2 minutes.

Since then she has regularly broken records including the men's and women's world record for swimming the Oresund between Denmark and Sweden with a time of 5 hours and 9 minutes; and the men's and women's record for swimming across the Kattegut between Norway to Sweden in a time of 6 hours and 16 minutes.

Not content with breaking other people's records she then started to swim stretches of water never before attempted. In 1976 she became the first person to swim across the 42°F waters of the Strait of Magellan with a time of 1 hour 2 minutes; and in 1977 she became the first person to swim between three of the Aleutian Islands, then she swam 8 miles around the Cape of Good Hope (again a first). A couple of years later she swam across three lakes in New Zealand's Southern Alps .... the list goes on and on - you can read it in full at her website. More recently (2002) she became the first person to complete a 1.2 mile swim in Antarctica, in a time of 25 minutes. She was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame in 2000.

Grayson is Lynne Cox's second book following Swimming to Antarctica (2005).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2006, and has been updated for the February 2008 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Gray Whales


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