Patrick Smithwick has done it again. His new book Flying Change is every bit the sleek, well-bred and fast Thoroughbred as its predecessor,Racing My Father.
Smithwick is no longer racing his father. He is racing himself – while
continuing with his duties as a father, a husband, a friend, a teacher
and a writer.
This memoir of dueling ambitions is the tale of a man who decides in mid-life to call off all restraints, silence all naysayers, put his mind and body and courage to the test, and do what in his case—he has been away from the world of racing for twenty-five years—is the impossible: within a nine-month period get a horse to ride in the most difficult steeplechase race in the world, and then, ride that horse as if his life depends on it, which, literally, it does.
Flying Change is an inspiration for anyone who thought he or she could never compete again. If you’d like to know what it’s like to be a member of the elite racing set, if you’d like to experience firsthand a foxhunt at its most exciting moments, if you’d like to vicariously ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup, then this is your book.
in time and energy required by Smithwick’s return to racing pull him
away from his family and his ambition to write, creating major
conflicts. Yet, the fast-paced narrative shows Smithwick striving to
carry on traditions from his upbringing and apply them to the raising of
his own three children. These sections are positive, upbeat,
Fatherhood—the tensions, the responsibilities, the possibilities—is a topic sorely missing in the American canon. When tackled in American literature, books dealing with fatherhood are most often ones written by a son or daughter describing his or her mistreatment by father who is often either abusive, violent, alcoholic, inattentive, or worse. Smithwick fights against that formula in Racing My Father, a memoir of growing up as the son of A. P. “Paddy” Smithwick, the legendary steeplechase jockey.
In Flying Change, Smithwick goes against the grain again. He writes, as a father of three children, about his relationships with them. He addresses the question of what it means to be a father in 21 Century America. Tragedy on the racetrack in the form of death, paralysis, and suicide lurks in the background. This realistic recreation of the world of Thoroughbred racing gives the book a seriousness, and it also creates suspense.
is a must-read for the general audience as well as lovers of the horse
and of horse racing. This is not only a racing memoir that catapults the
reader through time and space at a breathtaking pace, it is a literary
memoir that examines the big questions of how to live one’s life.
Listen to Patrick's interview with Dan Rodricks on MIDDAY WYPR 88.1