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Summary

Now a documentary narrated by Common, produced by Grant Hill, Dwyane Wade, and 9th Wonder, from filmmaker Mary Mazzio. 

The moving true story of a group of young men growing up on Chicago's West Side who form the first all-Black high school rowing team in the nation and in doing so transform not only a sport but their lives. 

Growing up on Chicago's West Side in the '90s, Arshay Cooper knows the harder side of life. The street corners are full of gangs; the hallways of his apartment complex are haunted by drug addicts he calls "zombies" with strung-out arms, clutching at him as he passes by. His mother is a recovering addict, and his three siblings all sleep in a one-room apartment, a small infantry against the war zone on the street below. 

Arshay keeps to himself, preferring to write poetry about the girl he has a crush on, and spends his school days in the home-ec kitchen dreaming of becoming a chef. And then one day as he’s walking out of school he notices a boat in the school lunchroom and a poster that reads “Join the Crew Team”. 

Having no idea what the sport of crew is, Arshay decides to take a chance. This decision to join is one that will forever change his life and the lives of his fellow teammates. As Arshay and his teammates begin to come together to learn how to row - many never having been in water before - the sport takes them from the mean streets of Chicago to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. But Arshay and his teammates face adversity at every turn, including racism, gang violence, and a sport that has never seen anyone like them before.

A Most Beautiful Thing is the inspiring true story about the most unlikely band of brothers that form a family and forever change a sport and their lives for the better. 

Boston Globe Best Books of the Year - 2020

Amazon.com Best Books of the Year - 2020

A Macmillan Audio production from Flatiron Books 

"I was immediately captivated. Arshay's writing evoked the emotional angst of teens growing up in the inner city of Chicago.... I wholeheartedly recommend Arshay's book and look forward to his future projects." (Ron Stallworth, number one New York Times best-selling author of Black Klansman)

"This is the story of rising from the ashes stronger, faster, and focused - not in spite of the circumstances of birth but because of them. Arshay’s refusal to let his life story be written for him is a testament to the resilience and beauty of the human spirit, and his eagerness to succeed, on the water and in life, is an inspiration." (Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic)

©2020 Arshay Cooper (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

Critic reviews

"Narrator Adam Lazarre-White conveys Cooper's youth and aspirations in a rich, steady voice that suggests emotional authenticity and humor." (AudioFile magazine)

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Brilliant book

I really enjoyed this book, it had been recommended to me and I’m so glad it was. As someone who rows on an erg it was inspiring, especially seeing what they had to overcome and endure. Well worth a read or listen.

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Moving story

An excellent performance by Adam Lazarre White! He truly brought this beautiful story to life. As a rower, I am truly inspired by this wonderful tale. The true transformative power of rowing cannot be denied. A must listen / read for any rowing fan.

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  • Hermanator33
  • 14-07-20

Maureen Morrison

It’s been a while since a book made me sob while reading, the way this one did. I listened to it slowly in an attempt to make it last. It’s a great book for anyone, and I’ll be giving it as as gifts frequently.

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  • Margaret Priske
  • 14-10-20

The Book that demands reading & passing on to all ages willing to listen!

I thought this was a poor choice for Book Club, we were a group from a tennis club not a rowing club ! The beginning set the stage , gradually it filled with a a cast of characters that I sorted out , creating a setting in the most dangerous part of the west side, that couldn’t possibly deliver anything but gang violence. It is more than a good story, it proved that Black Lives Matter and cooperation , courage and respect can change All Lives.

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  • Linda D.
  • 04-01-21

Amazing

Thank you Arshay! Loved, loved your book. May God continue His mighty work. I am recommending your book to everyone.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-01-21

Reading or listening to this wonderful book is a true experience.

The story is haunting and the telling inspiring. Thank you Arshay Cooper. I have learned much by partaking about and a bit of understanding of the human condition

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  • KathrynVB
  • 31-12-20

Wonderful book, great story.

Watch the documentary after you've read the book. Not before. It's a lovely way to get more of the story.

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  • Christina C.
  • 21-12-20

Most inspiration and real story I have read in a very long time

This book brought tears to my eyes. The honesty and the insights the author shares through all kinds of challenges touched me deeply. I live in Chicago and I know what he writes is real. Thank you for your beautiful story.

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  • Meryl R Phillips
  • 17-12-20

AMAZING

So honest, thoughtful, inspirational, and at times funny. I kept adding errands to my day so I could finish the second half of the book - I didn't want to stop listening. What an amazing group of young men. I finished the last 30 minutes ugly crying in the Target parking lot

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  • lgwilson5
  • 16-12-20

Feel good story in a feel bad year

This book is the chicken soup comfort book of the year. What a wonderful success story against all odds.

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  • blp
  • 12-12-20

A Timely Lesson

The story is, in its way, so pertinent to our times that it is a must read for every person. Beyond letting us know what grit and determination can do for an individual or a team, it shows us what we can do as a society. The insight into the life of a young black man's reality is truly thought provoking. I loved the content of the book and the narrator was perfect for the story line. I will definitely look for more read by Adam Lazarre-White.

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  • myisha williams
  • 25-10-20

Great book Arshay

This book had me going back down memory lane. I feel I was a fly on the wall in the hallways of Manley. Great insight into the lives of guys that I admired/crushed on/watched from afar in school. Sorry fellas but Malcolm was definitely my favorite. Great story with even greater people. #wildcatsforever