4 out of 4 stars
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Born in Hong Kong, Vera Koo immigrated to the United States with her family when she was twelve years old. Her parents brought her up under traditional, conservative Chinese values, many of which are framed by patriarchy. In light of the tradition in which she was raised, it was less than likely that Koo would ever become a notable contender in a male-dominated sport. Even so, Koo tells of her rise in competitive sport shooting in her memoir, The Most Unlikely Champion, with the assistance of writer Justin Pahl.
A key point of irony in the author’s story is that she was once afraid of guns. Because she reasoned that the improper use of guns makes them hazardous, she faced her fear by enrolling in a firearm safety course. In the following years, she would eventually become one of the most accomplished shooters in the world of sport shooting.
The memoir develops through split timelines, going back and forth between the author’s distant and more recent past. In alternating chapters, the progressive description of a critical challenge in Koo’s competitive shooting career anchors the flow of the narrative. The author conveys how her goal-oriented focus and her faith in God have helped her to excel in a sport where many other competitors did not take her seriously at first.
The author weaves a great deal about her personal life into the memoir. She gives the reader a close look at the successes in her family as well as the adversity she and her loved ones have endured. Through even the heartbreaking aspects of her story, Koo shows how she has used internal pain to drive her forward.
Now, when an author communicates a story with the help of another writer, it can be unclear whether certain weaknesses in the writing stem from the author or from the writer. In this account, the writer sometimes overuses a particular adverb or repeats the same bits of information in a way that feels more redundant than enlightening. However, the issue does not detract from the memoir’s overall quality. The general presentation is professional, with only a few errors in the whole book.
Yet, my main point of concern with the memoir is ideological. The author addresses the sensitive subject of a betrayal in one of her close relationships. While she expresses the importance of personal healing as a victim, she does not emphasize the need for a violator to truly repent of his or her betrayal and to change his or her behavior. This example could conflict with the needs or principles of readers who have experienced, or who are currently in, relationships with abusive or dysfunctional individuals. Still, what is considered acceptable or unacceptable behavior in a relationship differs according to one’s culture and values. Because my concern is ideological and not technical, I have chosen not to downgrade the memoir because of it.
For its clear and polished delivery and its motivating message about accomplishing one’s goals, I give The Most Unlikely Champion a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. I’d recommend it to fans of Christian memoirs. However, I would not recommend it to readers who may be looking for inspiration or advice about handling damaged personal relationships.
The Most Unlikely Champion
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