Twitter Facebook RSS Email
Pinterest Instagram Google Plus Tumblr

Support Indies

Get Updates by Email

 

Search Coffee and a Book Chick Archives

 

Blog Archive

16 January 2012

Night Swim, by Jessica Keener


Sarah Kunitz is sixteen-years-old and lives in a suburb just an hour north of Boston in the "perfect" family. After all the recipe for a perfect family is that of a mother and father who both live at home, children, a big house, and money. On the surface, at least, it's perfect. This is the Kunitz family of Boston in the 1970s.

In this quiet and compelling coming-of-age story of the only daughter in a dysfunctional family, sixteen-year-old Sarah has never felt mothered by the woman who now glides through life, a drink in one hand and a pill in the other. A classically trained violinist, was it the arthritis in her mother's hands that forced her to stop playing? Was it inheritance money that caused an emotional distance for them? Or was having a family the mistake? What was it that made Sarah's mother drift through life without being connected with her own children?

It's a question no child would want to ask of their mother, and especially by an only daughter. Sarah is just beginning to find her own place in life, and even a slight connection with her musical mother by developing a strong singing voice. But her chances to learn more of her mother's past are cut short when a car accident in the heart of Boston on an icy night leaves Sarah and her three brothers motherless. Now a new question surfaces: Was the car crash truly an accident, or did her mother choose to leave them?

This was a deeply touching and acutely felt story. Jessica Keener succeeded in building a fully developed character in Sarah, one whose emotional story was laced with flaw, tinged with regret, and ultimately ached to receive motherly guidance in any way possible. While I felt there were a few plot points that went on longer than necessary, those are minor quibbles about a story that felt genuine with every page and character. The sad fact was that it already seemed as though Sarah had always been living without a mother, with the accident securing what she couldn't (or didn't want to) recognize before. That might be what ringed the most genuine in this story. It's not when the person dies that makes you realize that things can never change now; instead, it's realizing that nothing ever would have gotten better even if the person had lived.

Night Swim is an emotional tale of growing up and feeling lost in a big family with parents who are emotionally absent. With summer romances, tough questions, drugs, loss, and heartache, the 1970s will be Sarah's time to make the choices that will shape her future and ultimately, make her whole. I enjoyed this story and anticipate a long career from Jessica Keener; I look forward to reading much, much more from her.

Publisher: The Fiction Studio
Release Date: 1/10/2012
Pages: 284

Side Notes
  • Although this is not a memoir, readers who enjoy them, along with coming-of-age stories, will find a lot to discuss and think about with Night Swim. A book club will likely feel comfortable to reminisce with their own personal stories of growing up as well.
  • While the character is a teenager, the reader should know that the story does deal with big topics such as drugs, alcohol, and sex, but this can provide a great opportunity for discussion with your teenager. If they read it, you should, too, and talk about the issues addressed.
  • Food was occasionally mentioned throughout the novel, and whenever I see something I've never heard of before, I research until I find a good recipe. For that reason, I made Noodle Pudding over the weekend, and I'll be posting it this Friday for Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking meme.


About the Author
Jessica Keener is the author of her acclaimed debut novel, Night Swim. She grew up in Boston and received her Master's from Brown University. A freelance writer, she has published in The Boston Globe Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Inspired House, Coastal Living, Design New England, and Poets & Writers. Her stories have been listed in The Pushcart Prize under "outstanding writers." She currently lives in Boston.

Follow the author:

Others said:
Beth Fish Reads

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me. The Night Swim tour goes through February 23, 2012. To read the reviews at all of the tour stops, click here.

22 comments:

  1. This book sounds emotionally charged and heartbreaking. It sounds like one of those books that makes you wonder if it is really a true story. Your review is wonderful and makes me want to read the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this might be a story you would really like, Kathy. It's got all of the elements of a true coming of age tale, and I did wonder where the line of fiction and memoir was blurred. Such a touching story!

      Delete
  2. I love coming of age stories.

    Noodle pudding? I'll be looking out for your post on Friday. (It sounds gross. Haha.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) Actually, the Noodle Pudding was surprising good. I would consider it a side dish with a main meal and not a dessert, sort of like Sweet Potato Casserole!

      Delete
    2. Now Sweet Potato Casserole I can hang with! I'll keep an open mind.

      Delete
  3. Just the questions you posed in the review/plot synopsis are intriguing and sound like they could generate a lot of discussion!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, definitely a lot of discussion would pop up with it. Makes me wish I was in a book club!

      Delete
  4. Oh, this does sound powerful, and you make some really good and introspective points about how the death of the mother can both highlight and solidify the loss and neglect that the main character felt about her relationship with her mother. I think this would be an interesting read for me, and that I would connect with it on a personal level. Amazing review today, Natalie! I am off to see if the library has this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would be interested to get your take on this story. It's a great debut from the author, and I look forward to more from her. If you get a chance to read it, let me know!

      Delete
  5. this does sound like a great book club book! And your insightful reflection "It's not when the person dies that makes you realize that things can never change now; instead, it's realizing that nothing ever would have gotten better even if the person had lived." makes Sarah's relationship with her mother so incredibly tragic. Lovely review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Stacy. It certainly made me reflect on a lot of things and that was my primary take away from this book which was that Sarah more than likely wouldn't have been able to improve anything, but her journey to still find her place was a process that made her who she eventually became. Such a good story!

      Delete
  6. This is probably not a book I would've picked up on my own, but yours is a very compelling review, Natalie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Andi! If you get a chance to read it, I'd love to see what you think!

      Delete
  7. Wow -- I passed on this for the tour and I regret it now! It reminds me a bit of the Rappaport memoir I read earlier this year, In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide -- set during the same era in Boston (perhaps earlier). Really moving.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just took a look at Goodreads, and I think I'm going to have to put In Her Wake on my to read list! If you get a chance to read it, do let me know!

      Delete
  8. "It's not when the person dies that makes you realize that things can never change now; instead, it's realizing that nothing ever would have gotten better even if the person had lived."

    That is one of the most profound truths I've heard in a long time.

    I can't wait to hear about Noodle Pudding!

    Thanks for being on the tour. Fabulous review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Trish, for including me on the tour! And I hope you try the Noodle Pudding sometime! :)

      Delete
  9. Thanks so much for taking time to read my debut! Fascinating to me what you see and others see in the story. I learn every day. Can't wait to see your recipe for noodle pudding!

    Warm wishes,

    Jessica

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a treat! Thanks for stopping by. I can only imagine how interesting it must be for you to read how others see the story you've created, but hopefully, it's been a fun experience so far, since this book was wonderful. I look forward to your next book!

      And yes, Noodle Pudding coming everyone's way on Friday!

      Delete
    2. It's been a great experience so far!

      Delete
  10. I'm not sure if I should be excited or apprehensive about the Noodle Pudding ... :)

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this book! Thanks for being on the tour Natalie. Hope all is well with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) I was surprised with the Noodle Pudding. It wasn't a dessert, but more of a side dish. If anyone else makes it, I'd love to know what they think. My husband absolutely loves it!

      Thanks so much, Heather! I hope you're doing well also. If you're ever in the Va Beach area, let me know!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...