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Running With the Kenyans: Discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth
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Running With the Kenyans: Discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth [Format Kindle]

Adharanand Finn
4.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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Running in the Northamptonshire County Championships, 1988

We’re running across long, wavy grass, racing for the first corner. I’m right at the front, being pushed on by the charge of legs all around me, the quick breathing of my schoolmates. We run under the goalposts and swing down close beside the stone wall along the far edge of the field. It’s quieter now. I look around. One other boy is just behind me, but the others have all dropped back. Up ahead I can see the fluttering tape marking the next corner. I run on, the cold air in my lungs, the tall poplar trees shivering above my head.

We go out of the school grounds, along a gravel path that is normally out of bounds. My feet crunch along, the only sound. An old man pushing a bicycle stands to one side as I go by. I follow the tape, back down a steep slope on to the playing fields, back to the finish. I get there long before anyone else and stand waiting in the cold as the other runners come in, collapsing one after the other across the line. I watch them, rolling on their backs, kneeling on the ground, their faces red. I feel strangely elated. It’s the first PE class in my new school and we’ve all been sent out on a cross-country run. I’ve never tried running farther than the length of a football field before, so I’m surprised by how easy I find it.

“He’s not even breathing hard,” the teacher says, holding me up as an example to the others. He tells me to put my hands under my armpits to keep them warm as the other children continue to trail in.


A few years later, at age twelve, I break the 800 meters school record on sports day, despite a few of the other boys attempting to bundle me over at the start in an effort to help their friend win. Five minutes later, I run the 1,500 meters and win that, too. When we get home, my dad, sensing some potential talent, suggests that I join the local running club and looks up the number in the telephone directory. I hear him talking to someone on the phone, asking directions. From that point on, a course is set: I am to be a runner.

It all begins rather inauspiciously one night a few weeks later. I put on my shorts and tracksuit and walk across the bridge to the shopping mall next to our suburban housing estate in Northampton, England, a town of 200,000 people sixty-five miles north of London. The precinct is half deserted, save for a few late shoppers coming out of the giant Tesco supermarket. I head down the escalator to the car park, and then across the road to the unmarked dirt track where the Northampton Phoenix running club meets. It’s a cold night and all the runners are crammed into a small doorway in the side of a huge redbrick wall. Inside, the corridor walls are painted bloodred and covered in lewd graffiti. Down the hall are the changing rooms, where men can be heard laughing loudly above the fizz of the showers. I give my name to a lady sitting at a small table.

Rather than head out onto the track, as I had imagined, I’m taken back across the road with a group of children my age, to the shopping mall’s delivery area, a stretch of covered road with shuttered loading bays all along one side. The road itself is thick with discharged oil. A man in tights and a yellow running jacket gets us to run from one side of the road to the other, touching the curb each time. Between each sprint he makes us do exercises such as push-ups or jumping jacks. I begin thinking, as I lie back on the cold, hard concrete ready to do some sit-ups, that I’ve come to the wrong place. This isn’t running. I had imagined groups of lithe athletes hurtling around a track. My dad must have gotten confused and called the wrong club.


I’m so convinced this isn’t the running club that I don’t return for another year. When I do, they ask me if I’d like to train in “the tunnel”—which I take to mean the shopping mall loading bays—or head out for a long run. I opt for the long run and am directed over to a group of about forty people. This is more like it. As we set off along the gravel pathways that wind around the council estates of east Northampton, I feel for the first time the sensation of running in the middle of a group of people. The easy flow of our legs moving below us, the trees, houses, lakes floating by, the people stepping aside, letting us go. Although most of the other runners are older and constantly making jokes, as I drift quietly along, I feel a vague sense of belonging.

I spend the next six years or so as a committed member of the club, running track or cross-country races most weekends, and training at least twice a week. Much of my formative years I spend out pounding the roads. Even when I grow my hair long and start playing the guitar in a band, I keep on training. The other runners nickname me Bono. One night, when I’m about eighteen, I pass a bunch of my school friends coming back from the pub. We are going at full pace in the last mile of a long run. My school friends stare at me open mouthed as I charge by, one shouting, incredulously: “What are you doing?” as I disappear into the distance.


I first become aware of Ken­yan runners sometime in the mid-1980s, around the time I join the running club. They seem to emerge suddenly in large numbers into a running world dominated, in my eyes, by Britain’s Steve Cram and the Moroccan Said Aouita. I’m a big fan of both of these great rivals. Cram, with his high-stepping, majestic style; and the smaller Aouita, with his grimacing face and rocking shoulders, who is brilliant at every distance—from the short, fast 800 meters right up to the 10,000 meters.

But by the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, it is all Ken­yans, winning every men’s middle-distance and long-distance track gold medal except one. What impresses me most about them is the way they run. The conventional wisdom is that the most efficient method, particularly in the longer distances, is to run at an even pace, and most races are run that way. The Ken­yans, however, take a more maverick approach. They are always surging ahead, only to slow down suddenly, or sprinting off at a crazy pace right from the start. I love the way it befuddles the TV commentators, who are constantly predicting that a Ken­yan athlete is going too fast, only to then see him go suddenly even faster.

I remember watching the 1993 world championship 5,000 meters final on a warm mid-August evening in our living room in Northampton. My mum keeps coming in and out, suggesting I go and sit outside in the garden. It’s a lovely evening, but I’m glued to the TV. The television cameras are focused on the prerace favorite, the Olympic champion from Morocco, Khalid Skah, and also on a young Ethiopian named Haile Gebrselassie, who won both the 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meters at the world junior championships the year before. The athletes stand side by side at the start line, looking back into the camera. They smile nervously when their names are announced, and give the odd directionless wave.

The race sets off at a blistering pace, with a succession of African athletes streaking ahead one after the other at the front. Skah, who has taken on and beaten the Ken­yans many times before, tracks their every move, always sitting on the shoulder of the leader. Britain’s only runner in the race, Rob Denmark, soon finds himself trailing far behind.

With seven laps still to go, the BBC television commentator Brendan Foster is feeling the strain just watching. “It’s a vicious race out there,” he says. Right on queue, a young Ken­yan, Ismael Kirui, surges to the front and, within a lap, opens up a huge gap of more than 150 feet on everyone else. It’s a suicidal move, Foster declares. “He’s only eighteen and has no real international experience. I think he’s got a little carried away.” I sit riveted, screaming at the TV as the coverage cuts away to the javelin for a few moments. When it switches back, Kirui is still leading. Lap after lap, Skah and a group of three Ethiopians track him, but they aren’t getting any closer. The camera zooms in on Kirui’s eyes, staring ahead, wild like a hunted animal as he keeps piling on the pace. “This is one savage race,” says Foster.

Kirui is still clear as the bell sounds for the last lap. Down the back straight he sprints for his life, but the three Ethiopians are flying now, closing the gap. With just over 100 meters left, Kirui glances over his shoulder and sees the figure of Gebrselassie closing in on him. For a brief second everything seems to stop. This is the moment, the kill is about to happen. Startled, frantic, Kirui turns back toward the front and urges his exhausted body on again, his tired legs somehow sprinting away down the finishing straight. He crosses the line less than half a second ahead of Gebrselassie, but he has done it. He has won. Battered and bewildered, he sets off on his lap of honor, the Ken­yan flag, once again, held aloft in triumph.

That evening I head down to the track for a training session with my running club. I try to run like Kirui, staring straight ahead, going as fast as I can right from the start. It’s one of the best training sessions I ever have. Usually, if you run too hard at the beginning, you worry about how you’ll feel later. You can feel it in your body, the anticipation of the pain to come. Usually it makes you slow down. It’s called pacing yourself. But that night I don’t care. I want to unshackle myself and run free like a Ken­yan.


The night I spend hurtling wide-eyed around the track after watching Ismael Kirui turns out to be one of the last sessions I ever have with my running club. Just over a month later I pack my belongings into my parents’ car and drive up to Liverpool to begin college. Although I join the college running team,...

Revue de presse

Advance praise for Running with the Kenyans
“Completely satisfying, as well-paced and exhilarating as a good run.”—The Boston Globe
“Not everyone gets to heaven in their lifetime. Adharanand Finn tried to run there, and succeeded. Running with the Kenyans is a great read.”—Bernd Heinrich, author of Why We Run
“Part scientific study, travel memoir, and tale of self-discovery, Finn’s journey makes for a smart and entertaining read.”—Publishers Weekly
“A hymn to the spirit, to the heartbreaking beauty of tenacity, to the joy of movement.”—The Plain Dealer

“Equal parts cultural examination, cult-of-running treatise, and poignant memoir, Running with the Kenyans thrives on a variety of levels. Like the skilled distance runner he is, Finn paces this book marvelously and then saves the best for the final kick. This book packs all the pleasure and satisfaction—and none of the ancillary pain—of a long training run.”—L. Jon Wertheim, senior editor, Sports Illustrated, and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Scorecasting
“Not everyone gets to heaven in their lifetime. Finn tried to run there, and succeeded. Running with the Kenyans is a great read.”—Bernd Heinrich, author of Why We Run
“If you want to know the secrets of Kenyan runners, and have a rollicking adventure along the way, join Finn in his fascinating tale of what it is to go stride for stride with the fastest people on Earth.”—Neal Bascomb, author of The Perfect Mile
“An extremely good book . . . If Born to Run taught us what to wear (or not to wear) when running, Finn’s fascinating Running with the Kenyans teaches us how to run. . . . In the tradition of the best sports writing, Finn embedded himself fully in his subject and reveals, for the first time, just how close we are to the holy grail of the sub-two-hour marathon.”—Robin Harvie, author of The Lure of Long Distances
“A beautiful and inspiring must-have for every runner, Running with the Kenyans is far more than an inspirational story, but a guide toward running, humility, and life, from the amazing people of Kenya.”—Michael Sandler, author of Barefoot Running

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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Agréable récit 26 mars 2014
Un journaliste de Runners World, coureur amateur, décide de s'immerger pendant six mois dans la région d'Iten au Kenya, d'où sont originaires la plupart des coureurs de fonds de l'élite mondiale. Il partage leur vie quotidienne et leurs entrainements, ce qui, on s'en doute, va considérablement améliorer sa propre condition physique. Nul "secret" ne sera dévoilé, mais la mise à jour de quelques ingrédients essentiels du succès de ces athlètes. Courir beaucoup et dès le plus jeune âge, avoir une forte émulation entre pairs qui sont quasi tous dans des camps d'entrainement, avoir la motivation de remporter des courses et de sortir de la pauvreté, pratiquer l'entrainement quotidien en altitude. Tout cela est présenté sous forme de reportage et ces éléments nous sont distillés peu à peu, comme s'il fallait garder le suspense jusqu'à la fin. Cette partie de l'ouvrage est faible et faussement naïve, l'auteur fait comme s'il "découvrait" tout cela, alors que c'est analysé de façon bien plus rigoureuse dans l'ouvrage coordonné notamment par Tim Noakes "East African Running: Toward a Cross-Disciplinary Perspective" (2007). Livre que l'auteur ne cite même pas, alors qu'il est peu probable qu'il ne l'ait pas lu. Ouvrage que je recommande à ceux qui voudraient lire une approche plus systématique et scientifique. Et puis, étant sur place, il y a deux questions que l'auteur aurait pu soulever, celle de la vie affective et sexuelle de ces centaines de jeunes gens qui passent une bonne partie de leur vie dans les camps d'entrainement de la région, et la question du doping. Lire la suite ›
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Fun to read ! 3 décembre 2012
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I loved this book from one end to the other. I's fresh, fun, the author has a peculiar sense of humor....full of wiseness too !
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.2 étoiles sur 5  86 commentaires
16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 There is no secret... 18 juin 2012
Par G. Kellner - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Or, more accurately, it's everything and nothing. If you're reading this book hoping to discover a magic elixir that will dramatically improve your marathon time, it's not here. I was hoping to find some magic formula, as I am training for a marathon, but...Kenyans are fast for any number of reasons.

Adharanand Finn seized the opportunity to run with Kenyans for 6 months, hoping to become as fast as a Kenyan. He was a fairly fast runner already (38 minutes for a 10K) and he did get faster. He and a group of Kenyans decide they will train for a marathon in Lewa. Through the book, we follow Adharanand as he trains with a group of Kenyan runners. He does get faster (and lighter) but the highlight of the book is getting to know a select group of Kenyans and learning about their culture. The book culminates in the running of the Lewa marathon, which is fitting, as by the end of the book we have gotten to know many runners and are sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering how they do. As a runner, I thought all the factors that went in to the Kenyan dominance in long-distance running were interesting--alas, most can not be replicated in America. Still, it was an inspiring and humbling book.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Life with the Kenyans. They run a lot. 1 août 2012
Par Paul A. Mastin - Publié sur
To me, a great running book is not one that focuses on technique, training plans, diet, and form. A great running book is one that entertains me and makes we want to get out and run! Adharanand Finn has done just that with his new book, Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth. Finn, a British journalist and a pretty good runner, moved to Kenya for several months (with his patient wife and flexible children). They lived in the Rift Valley town of Iten, one of the central training grounds for Kenyan runners.

Finn jumped right into the running culture of Iten. To hear him tell it, there are runners everywhere. The roads get clogged with groups of runners, and there are numerous training camps. Virtually everyone Finn is introduced to has some kind of running credential: placed in a major marathon, world record holder for this distance, medalist in that Olympic Games, etc. That high concentration of success and speed is pretty intimidating, but Finn does his best to keep up. He even puts together a team to train for an upcoming marathon.

Over the course of the book, Finn entertains us with the idiosyncrasies of life in rural Kenya (I loved his observation, which drew little comment, of the shepherd who delivered his charges one at a time in the basket of his bicycle. I wish Finn would have taken pictures. . . .) as well as with his reports of running with these world-class athletes (he often runs with the women. . . .). All the while, he asks the question that prompted his visit to Iten: why are the Kenyans so fast, dominating road racing the world over in recent years?

My favorite explanation is tied to the tradition of cattle rustling. Slow Kalenjins (the ethnic group from which most of the fast Kenyans come) would get caught or killed rustling cattle. The fast ones end up with more cattle, and in a polygamous society, that means more wives. So slow Kalenjins are removed from the gene pool, while the fast ones spread their genes more prodigiously. Even thought it's a good story, that's probably not the reason

Finn says, "It's just how they live. Simply through growing up on the slopes of the Rift Valley, far form cities and the technologies that the West has invented to make life more comfortable, they have found themselves excelling at the world's most natural sport." So it's a wide variety of factors.

"The puzzle of why Kenyans are such good runners. . . . was too complex, yet too simple [to be reduced to an] elixir, a running gene, [a] training secret that you could neatly package up. . . . It was everything, and nothing. . . .: the tough, active childhood, the barefoot running, the altitude, the diet, the role models, the simple approach to training, the running camps, the focus and dedication, the desire to succeed, to change their lives, the expectation that they can win, the mental toughness, the lack of alternatives, the abundance of trails to train on, the time spent resting, the running to school, the all-pervasive running culture, the reverence for running."

I know that if I, like Finn, spent several months in Iten, I might make some progress. I would certainly lose some weight, and probably would get faster. But I'm sure I'll never run like a Kenyan. Nevertheless, Running with the Kenyans does make me want to get out and run!
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A runner's book not just for runners 15 mai 2012
Par Eric C. Sedensky - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Not too long ago, after a half-year of steady training for a 10K run, I started experiencing runner's knee, a painful condition often thought to result from bad running form or poor equipment (shoes). My doctor asked about my shoes, and when I told him I didn't wear any while running, he said simply, "You know, you're not a 110-pound Kenyan." My doctor, who is also a runner, was right of course, but I wish I had this book at the time, as it goes a long way to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions around running in general and barefoot running in specific.

That said, let me add that you don't have to be a runner to enjoy Adharanand Finn's "Running with the Kenyans". (Notice how the "the" suggests the selectivity of just who Finn is going to be running with - not just any Kenyans, the Kenyans.) It combines a bit of memoir, with a bit of journalism, a dash of travelogue, and a lot of running, making for a diverse and divergent read. (It reminded me a bit of Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits in that respect.) Of course, if you are a runner, or more so, one of the growing legion of barefoot or minimal shoe runners (like me), I think you will find this book both challenging and enlightening. Enlightening for obvious reasons, challenging as I will explain below.

The author is a British journalist and running magazine writer whose family reached a crossroads at the same time as his running career/hobby did. Given an opportunity to live, work and train in Kenya for a year, his family takes advantage of the opportunity, ships off to Africa, and starts experiencing and living in an alien (to them) culture, while dad/husband/author seeks out expert coaches and runners to help him run longer and faster by sharing with him the knowledge and experience of the long-distance Kenyan running elite. There are many races and many more unusual experiences. The author learns his share of running "secrets": barefoot running, running in flats, eating local carbohydrate rich foods and vegetables, training, growing up running, living in training communes, genetics, hydration, running to escape poverty, running to escape boredom, running for no reason other than to run. He shares all of these secrets with the reader, in the process not only explaining a lot about running, but also revealing that (spoiler alert) there really are no secrets. After all, the author mentions the training philosophies of numerous multi-decade running coaches, gold-medal Olympians, and marathon world record holders, even going so far as referencing authoritative resources like Lore of Running, 4th Edition. Many ideas, theories, and philosophies of running are discussed, but due to the idiosyncratic nature of running, few conclusions are drawn. Not surprisingly, this book is at its best when it is about running or when the author is relating his own experience and thoughts while trying to validate or refute the "secrets" he is learning. It all becomes a little more challenging to read when the memoir portions wander into the story. Although I wouldn't say they were distracting, I would say some of the anecdotes, like how everyone wants to buy his brother-in-law's white Toyota, or the odd things that happen to his daughters at school or the beauty parlor, don't serve the overall story very well. These episodes do, however, change the pace of the book (not unlike running). I would have preferred to have them tied more closely to the Kenyan running theme, or at least, to the author's actual running experience, but other than making your reading time a little longer than planned, they don't adversely affect this book.

When the author reached the end of his year in Kenya and I reached the end of his book, I realized I had gained a lot more from RWTK than I expected, and having never read Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Vintage), I especially enjoyed reading about barefoot running (a topic largely skipped over in Noakes' 1000-page Lore). This is a well-written book set in exotic locales with unusual, unfamiliar, and unexpected circumstances, all revolving around an everyman's sport. It may not be a proven formula for a readable, likable, and informative book, but that is the end result. I recommend it to everyone, but especially to any runner. It probably won't make you run faster or cure your runner's knee, but it might give you (and maybe your doctor) some things to think about.
16 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 No Kenyan Running Secrets Revealed Here 10 juillet 2012
Par JohnHarlin - Publié sur
The title and subtitle of this book IMPLY that Adharanand Finn runs with the Kenyans to get an insight of their training and in the process "discovers the secrets of the fastest people on earth." But for some reason, it doesn't seem to mean that for Finn, the editor or the publisher of the book. Basically, the contract of the title of this book was not met in any way. Perhaps, he even made a deal with the Kenyans that he would NOT reveal any of their training secrets because that is how the book comes across. It provides almost no depth or understanding of running whatsoever. So either Finn was the wrong person to write this book or he promised the Kenyans not to reveal any of their training secrets.

Finn runs with the Kenyans for six months in the small town of Iten where most of the greatest Kenyan runners come from. The extent of the secrets revealed are all cultural to Finn. It doesn't seem like what they run or how they run makes much of a difference to him in Kenyan running success. It is to me just incredible and unbelievable that a runner who spends six months training with the Kenyans can so ignore the training aspect.
Here is where the book is unbelievably lacking:

1. Workouts are spoken about sporadically, never what they do on a daily or weekly basis. You can't get the overall picture unless you see everything. All it would have taken is a couple of paragraphs or a sentence or two. He was there. He should know. Was he trying to keep all that a secret or was he so shallow that it made no difference to him?

2. Kenyans work out twice a day and some, I've heard, three times a day. No double workout and what they do on their second workout was ever mentioned. All it would have taken would have been a couple of paragraphs or a sentence or two to explain this but nothing, like it had no importance whatsoever. Incredible.

3. Kenyans do speed training. Nothing was mentioned about that. The only thing I think I remember is where one day they did 25 times one-minute intervals on the roads.

4. Diet was mentioned but somehow the connection was not made between Kenyan diet and low body fat being a factor in Kenyan running success even though the author himself mentions that when some Kenyans went to the states they put on quite a bit of weight in a short period of time and that he, the author himself, lost about 17 pounds while in Kenya. Why was this so UNimportant to him? Why could the author not have got some Kenyans tested for body fat. The average non-elite American runner has about 25% body fat. World class Kenyan runners have about 2 percent. That's a lot of extra weight for American runners. For a 150 pound runner that's a difference of about 35 pounds. Imagine removing 35 pounds off your body and then running. But non of that was emphasized in the book whatsoever.

5. No real in depth interviews with Kenyans about running and training were given which leads me to believe that there might have been some kind of understanding that they didn't want to have their training secrets revealed. So title the book something else then but don't trick us into buying a book that does not give us what it says it will. Cultural things alone do not make great runners.

6. One of Finn's main purpose of going to Kenya was to train with the Kenyans and see if that could improve his running times which it did. He mentions two other nonKenyan runners who were there, Tom Payn, 4th fastest marathoner in England and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit's son, Anders who Finn trained with a little while there. One plus one equals 2. Besides himself, would it not have made sense to follow the progress of these two runners and give us a report on how they performed after training months with the Kenyans. A couple paragraphs or a sentence or two is all it would have taken. Why did he disregard this? I guess the same way he disregarded so many other things.

7. I thought that at the end there would have been some kind of final analysis as to what makes Kenyan runners great but nothing. Perhaps it is better there wasn't any final analysis since Finn failed to include and consider so many important factors to great running.

There are many other things that I'm not going to mention but had I been over there training with the Kenyans and written this book, it would have come out so much different that it would have been the difference between night and day.
12 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Enjoyable Read 1 mai 2012
Par Janeite - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
First off, let me say that I'm not a runner in any way, shape, or form. My policy is only to run if something is chasing me. So I can attest that this book is not just a good read for those who run; it's just a good read. I got this book through the Amazon Vine program because I found the premise interesting. An English journalist takes his young family with him as he spends a year living and training in Kenya. In case you live in a cave, Kenya is known to produce the world's best runners. Just look at the results of almost any marathon run anywhere in the world, and you can almost bet the winner was Kenyan. The author had been a competitive runner in his youth but then forgot about his dream of running marathons while he was busy going to college, marrying, starting a family, and earning a living. Going to Kenya to finally get serious about running by learning from the best in the world was a solution to his quandary as well as a unique adventure for his family. The book caught my attention from the first page as its first person narrative captured my interest and set a quick pace for the book. Within just a few pages, the reader is whisked off to Kenya to share this wonderful journey. The tone of the book is light and entertaining as Finn always manages to see the humor in situations that might take some of us aback (sleeping in a tent with your small children as lions grunt and roar just outside, renting a reportedly luxurious house where the bathroom consists of a spigot coming out of the wall). I enjoyed this relatively quick read and found it a thought-provoking, interesting narrative that I would recommend to anyone who likes good stories, especially true ones.
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