Learning to Swim – Sara J. Henry

I participate in our library’s Adult Summer Reading progam, it’s a bit loosey goosey in that there are no required texts, you just have to read and are invited to share what you’ve read and what you thought about it with the rest of the community.  On the foot of a community member’s recommendation I picked up Learning to Swim and so had not idea until afterward that this book “has been called “an auspicious debut” by Daniel Woodrell (WINTER’S BONE) and “emotional, intense, and engrossing” by Lisa Unger. It won the 2012 Anthony Award and 2012 Agatha Award for best first novel and the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was nominated for the Barry and Macavity awards. The sequel is A COLD AND LONELY PLACE, which bestselling author Julia Spencer-Fleming calls “a deeply atmospheric, seductive read and a captivating literary mystery” and award-winning author Howard Frank Mosher describes as “a character-driven thriller set in one of the coldest and loneliest places in the United States: the Adirondack Mountains in mid-winter.” (Henry’s author page on Amazon)

Troy Chance is a singular sporty young woman who lives an active minimalist life supporting herself by writing freelance articles for a number of magazines.  She rents a house which she shares with a lot guys (because with them she can have a bad day, go to her room, and not have anyone expecting her to sit down and talk about it).  Taking the ferry across Lake Champlain to visit her boyfriend she heads for the deck where despite the damp she feels more comfortable than in the lounge.  Peering out through the fog she sees another ferry traveling in the opposite direction and is surprised to see something (a child?!) falling overboard.  Before she even knows what she is doing  she has plunged into the water and begun swimming towards the last point where she saw the child. When she finds him, his arms tied in a large sweatshirt she gets him to the point of being responsive and starts to swim towards shore. “The swim to shore wasn’t dramatic, just grim…..This is the part of Rescue 911 you never see – the long, slow dreary stuff.  I did the crawl; I did the sidestroke.  In my head I sang a slow dirge from Girl Scout camp.”(p 5-6)

When she gets to shore she realizes that she had been expecting news crews and teary, grateful parents. not the empty parking lot that greeted her.  The question now is “What to do next that would be in the best interests of this child” who she has just learned only speaks French.

An excellent debut, the first few chapters of this book are tantalizingly suspenseful.  From this excellent beginning I was driven to finish the book within 10 hours of beginning it despite some weak storyline connections and relationships later in the book.

I have every reason to believe that Ms. Henry’s writing will only improve and look forward to her future in suspense.


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