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Non-Fiction Review – Devoted

Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for his Son by  Dick Hoyt with Don Yaeger


Review by Brenna B. (demiducky25

Every now and then you read a book that inspires you to really examine how you live your life.  For me, Devoted is one of those books.  Prior to reading this book I had heard a little about Team Hoyt.  I knew that they were a father and son running team, and I knew that Dick (the father) pushed Rick (the son) through the races due to the fact that Rick is a quadriplegic.  However, what I didn’t know before reading this book is that although Dick is the one doing the physical pushing, it is really Rick who has been the driving force behind the story of Team Hoyt.  I challenge anyone to read this book and not walk away from it with some idea of how you can stop making excuses for why you can’t/ won’t do certain things in your life.

Do not go into this book thinking that it’s just a sports story.  Yes, sports do play a large part in the story of Team Hoyt, but it’s only one part of their story.  The real focus of this story is a father’s love for his son and a son’s love for his father.  Both strive to do whatever it is that they can do to make the other person happy.  The earlier parts of the book detail Dick and his wife’s struggle to learn what it was like to care for a son with cerebral palsy at home during a time when institutionalization was the recommended course to take.  Dick’s wife made serious inroads with pushing certain special education acts into law in Massachusetts, all while raising Rick and his two younger, able-bodied brothers.  With her guiding force, Rick was able to eventually attend public school.  Rick also was able to eventually communicate the intelligence that his parents knew he had through the use of a machine that involved using his head to spelling out words, and later sentences, into a computer.  One day, Rick used this machine to express to his father that he wanted to run in a charity race, and that he wanted Dick to be the one to run with him.  Their goal was to not come in last.  They succeeded in that goal by coming in second to last, but they knew that they could do even better.  From that day on, Dick and Rick began training for a variety of races that have included 5K races, triathlons, marathons, and Ironman competitions.  Each race, especially in the early years, brought about new challenges that Team Hoyt had to overcome.  Some challenges were creating racing chairs that Rick could ride in, others included dealing with race officials that didn’t see Rick as a true competitor and tried to prevent Team Hoyt from racing because they didn’t fit either standard classification of an able-bodied runner or a typical wheelchair racers (one interesting story from the book goes into detail about how Team Hoyt could race in a particular competition, but Dick would have to make the much faster qualifying time for his son’s age group in order for them to do so).  To this day, Team Hoyt is still racing.  Rick is now 49 and Dick is now 71.  Both have expressed the fact that they will not race without the other.  Dick has expressed that without Rick guiding him into racing, he probably wouldn’t be alive today because being in racing shape has helped him overcome a number of health problems that could have been life-threatening.  The last chapter is written by Rick and if what he has to say doesn’t strike an emotional chord with you, nothing will.

What impressed me the most in this book was how Rick’s humor would shine through, and how he always seems to have a positive, sunny disposition, even when his father Dick felt that perhaps the latest struggle might become the one that they wouldn’t be able to beat.  Each of these instances in the book shows how Rick is truly the driving force of the team.  Rick could easily be one of the angriest people on the planet (not to say that there weren’t some darker times in the book where Rick would become frustrated), but overall he would overcome the obstacles in front of him with a dignity and grace that I don’t think most of us are able to do in our daily lives.

This is not a particularly difficult book to read.  After I read it I donated it to the classroom library of an English teacher in my building (late middle school) because I think that our students will enjoy reading a story like this.  The most risqué part of the story involved a teenaged Rick using the fact that he couldn’t control his arm movements to explore the bottoms of college girls during one of his father’s speaking events, but it’s mentioned so briefly that I don’t see it as a problem.    As a result, I think this book could, and should, be read by readers of all ages because there is something that each and every one of us can take away from the story of Team Hoyt.


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