‘I swim for every chance to get wasted — after every meet, every weekend, every travel trip. This is what I look forward to and what I tell no one: the burn of it down my throat, to my soul curled up in my lungs, the sharpest pain all over it — it seizes and stretches, becoming alive again, and is the only thing that makes sense.’
At fifteen, Casey Legler is already one of the fastest swimmers in the world. She is also an alcoholic, isolated from her family, and incapable of forming lasting connections with those around her.
Driven to compete at the highest levels, sent far away from home to train with the best coaches and teams, she finds herself increasingly alone and alienated, living a life of cheap hotels and chlorine-worn skin, anonymous sexual encounters and escalating drug use. Even at what should be a moment of triumph — competing at age nineteen in the 1996 Olympics — she is an outsider looking in, procuring drugs for Olympians she hardly knows, and losing her race after setting a new world record in the qualifying heats.
After submitting to years of numbing training in France and the United States, Casey can see no way out of the sinister loneliness that has swelled and festered inside her. Yet wondrously, when it is almost too late, she discovers a small light within herself, and senses a point of calm within the whirlwind of her life.
In searing, evocative, visceral prose, Casey gives language to loneliness in this startling story of survival, defiance, and of the embers that still burn when everything else in us goes dark.
‘Godspeed is a memoir for our times — an urgent, hypnotising account of growing up and growing into one’s skin under extreme circumstances. As brutal and original a telling as I can remember — of loneliness, of coping until the centre cannot hold. There is darkness here but in Casey Legler’s deft hands it serves the light. A cut-to-the-bone blues song in chapter form, these pages are touched, as she is, with lightning.’
View all reviews
‘Raw and poetic … The book is lean and ferocious — not unlike Ms. Legler’s attributes as a competitive swimmer — and offers an unflinching account of the “dogged devotion to routine and repetition” required of Olympians.’
Alex Hawgood, The New York Times
‘Exceptionally talented, reckless, separated from a true sense of herself, Legler could so easily have not survived her early life. The tension here is in how close she comes — by choice, or by default, in settings both elegant and ruined — and is still able to restore herself, her soul, and renew language itself to tell of it. Many of us would be well served by reading the last sentence of this memoir every day.’
‘[Legler] intricately describes every nuance of the competitive experience alongside her personal self-discovery … A coming-of-age drama captured through poetic prose and convincing honesty.’
‘This is a heart-wrenching, coming-of-age memoir by a talented athlete who is street-smart, lonely, and painfully broken … A poetically written account by a resilient rebel who skillfully captures what it is like to feel the world through her skin.’
Brenda Barrera, Booklist
‘[A memoir] with so much power and transparency.’
Julia Vitale, Vanity Fair
‘[T]he book does offer a bold and innovative glimpse into a fascinating mind and the surreal life of a prodigy athlete … Legler is a writer of obvious talent. There are images and turns of phrase that are truly lovely, and that remind us of her keen observational powers … Legler’s story and poetics can be powerful.’
Emma Rault, Lambda Literary
‘A tale of an unusual and distressing girlhood marred by drug addiction, self-loathing, sexual abuse, rebellion, and intense loneliness amid sporting success. It is short and unorthodoxly prose-like, and it punches hard and dark.’
Rachel Olding, Sydney Morning Herald
‘[A]n intense memoir ... Legler succinctly captures her descent into alcohol and drug addiction ... The raw effect of the prose lingers ... This is a raw story of teenage addiction, and it’s beautifully told.’