Saturday, June 10, 2017

Swimming Home

Title:  Swimming Home
Author:  Mary-Rose MacColl
Publication Information:  Penguin Books. 2017. 432 pages.
ISBN:  0143129961 / 978-0143129967

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "American swimmer Miss Gertrude Ederle has been taken unconscious from the icy waters of the English Channel, which have proven more than a match for even the stronger female swimmers of the world."

Favorite Quote:  "... you couldn't miss what you'd never had."

From the shores of an island off the coast of Australia to a charity clinic in London to a women's swim club in New York, this book is partly about women's swimming and the race to sponsor the first woman to swim the English Channel. More importantly, this book is about secrets - the ones we keep from those we love the most. Done out of love and a sense of protection, these secrets alter lives forever.

Catherine Quick is fifteen years old, and she swims like she breathes. Life on a small island off the shores of Australia is all she has ever known. Losing her mother at a very young age, her father and her native caretaker are the only family she has ever known. The rest of her blood-related family lives in England. Sadly, her father dies, and her aunt in London, not those Catherine considers family, is appointed guardian. The definition of family is the question. Is it the one we are born into or is it the one fostered with love.

Louisa is middle-aged, single, and a practicing surgeon in London. Her independent lifestyle makes her an anomaly in society. However, Louisa does not care and is solely focused on her women's clinic, providing care for women who cannot get it elsewhere. A child, no less a teenager half way across the world, is not in her plans. The role of women is the question whether in their personal or professional lives.

Nevertheless, Louisa does what she thinks is the right thing and brings Catherine to London in the hopes of providing a better education and a better life than she thinks Catherine could have on the island. She tries to do what she thinks is in Catherine's best interest. The definition of parenting is the question whether it is a role you choose or one you are thrust into.

Catherine does not adjust well, missing her family and the water. She longs to return to both. One Louisa cannot see happening, but the other leads them both to a successful American businessman. Manfred Lear Black wants to sponsor Catherine as a contender to become the first woman to swim the English channel - a feat that has been tried before but never successfully completed. This brings both Catherine and Louisa to New York. It is disappointing that in a book about a strong independent woman, a man still plays such an instrumental role in advancing her plans. Expected perhaps for the time and place but disappointing nevertheless.

Simmering under this surface are all kinds of secrets - Louisa's past, Catherine's family in Australia, and more. All are secrets begun and kept with the best of intentions. However, many have unintended consequences. Eventually, secrets come out, and life changes directions again.

An interesting piece of history about swimming and women's independence and a not-uncommon premise about family secrets make this book a quick and easy read. The globe-hopping story creates a seemingly quick pace, but the plot itself moves fairly slowly. Although the focus is on Catherine's swimming, this book is very much Louisa's story. For this reason, this belongs in adult fiction even though Catherine's story has a young adult flair. Either way, the book is a quick, light summer read.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment