Night Swim begins with a prelude. In this prelude, an old friend is emailing Sarah about her online CD collection and asking how she ended up in California. From that we can gather that she is a somewhat successful musician living in California. She responds to the email and then, “I turn off the computer, switch off my desk light, and in the darkness move down the hall to bed, returning to the past for answers, skipping as it easy to do in my older mind from one year to the next, to a place that is no longer there. It’s as if I’m swimming toward forever, only backwards.”
We then travel back to the beginning of the story. Sarah Kunitz at age 16. Not just Sarah though, it is the story of her family, and how a family shapes a person. The dynamics of family life; the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. Sarah’s family looks ideal from the outside: perfect house, expensive cars, live in maids. But it is not as it seems. Her father is explosive and self-absorbed, her mother pops pills.
What makes this story of Sarah’s life memorable is the writing. It is beautiful and pulls you in.
When Sarah is at her mother’s funeral, she tries to feel her mother’s presence.
“I listened hard for her faint, intelligent voice. I just didn’t hear her then. She might still be catching her breath. Anyone killed by a truck would need time to recover. Knocked out, she swam in a different universe, breast-stroking to the surface. It would be the very opposite of her life on earth where she didn’t swim at the country club, but waded up to her thighs to keep her hairdo dry. She might start playing the violin again. Her fingers would straighten; her back would no longer hurt.”
Also at the funeral:
“The cool draft from the larger room sucked me toward the doorway. Father left the room, tears soaking his face. He had gone into his own world of suffering alongside Hamlet and Lear, coveting his grief as if God had a limited supply to pass around. But Father was wrong. He couldn’t see that God had an endless source of it and it flowed through me and Peter, through my younger brothers.”
The wonderful writing and the complex, believable characters truly elevate this book.
You can see what other bloggers thought of Night Swim: TLC Booktour for Night Swim.
You can visit the author’s website: Jessica Keener.
***Disclaimer – I was given this book to preview and received no compensation other than the book. My opinions are entirely my own.