Publisher: Crown Publishers (a division of Random House Books)
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 289 pages
Source: borrowed from the library
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
“If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn’t, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water.”
When she witnesses a small child tumbling from a ferry into Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. Harrowing moments later, she bobs to the surface, pulling a terrified little boy with her. As the ferry disappears into the distance, she begins a bone-chilling swim nearly a mile to shore with a tiny passenger on her back.
Surprisingly, he speaks only French. He’ll acknowledge that his name is Paul; otherwise, he’s resolutely mute.
Troy assumes that Paul’s frantic parents will be in touch with the police or the press. But what follows is a shocking and deafening silence. And Troy, a freelance writer, finds herself as fiercely determined to protect Paul as she is to find out what happened to him. What she uncovers will take her into a world of wealth and privilege and heedless self-indulgence—a world in which the murder of a child is not unthinkable. She’ll need skill and courage to survive and protect her charge and herself.
Sara J. Henry’s powerful and compelling Learning to Swim will move and disturb readers right up to its shattering conclusion.
For me, this book was just OK. I went into it hoping for a lot more than it actually delivered. I was expecting a book full of suspense, a thriller – I mean, a little boy is thrown off a ferry, the synopsis hints at a great story, but it completely missed the mark. There wasn’t suspense, and what the synopsis hints at never comes about. I kept anxiously waiting for the big reveal only to be left disappointed. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a good book – it was well-written and the plot was OK, it just misrepresented itself which was a let-down. It was slow in the middle of the book, nothing eventful really happened, but there was a lot of character development done there.
The character of Troy was likeable but I found she made really weird decisions that makes the book as a whole hard to believe. She finds a boy and decides that she loves him so she doesn’t turn him in to the police – then tries to solve the case on her own. She uses Google to find the boy’s father (who has managed to keep a kidnapping out of the media for several months, by the way) and decides to drive up to Ottawa to see if he could kill his own son. Then moves in with the guy – but not in a romantic sense. She just drops everything and moves in to help with Paul. Because that would be the normal thing to do. I felt the ending was a bit far-fetched but it wrapped up the book nicely, and I suppose in this crazy world it could be plausible.
A small problem I had with the book was all the little asides about Canada and how Canadians live. I felt that it stopped the flow and detracted from the story. The cultural differences between Canada and the USA aren’t that big, so to me it felt unnecessary to stop the story progression in several places to explain to the reader these slight differences. I didn’t have a problem when it was worked into a scene (like Troy’s brother trying poutine for the first time, so Troy had to explain it to him before he tried it), it was the little side comments during narration that annoyed me.
It sounds like I hated this book, lol – I didn’t hate it. I thought it was OK. Enjoyable, even. It was just misrepresented. If you go into it knowing that it’s not going to be a mystery or thriller, and more like contemporary fiction, I think it would be a better read.
My Rating: 3 stars
Sara J. Henry stopped by the blog to give me an updated synopsis, one that I think is a lot truer to the book, so here it is:
When she sees what looks like a child tumbling from a ferry into frigid Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. When she gets the child to shore she discovers that his name is Paul, he speaks only French—and no one seems to be looking for him. Her determination to protect Paul pulls Troy from her quiet life in a small Adirondack town into an unfamiliar world of wealth and privilege in Canada and then in Vermont. Her attachment to him—and the danger she faces when she tries to unravel the mystery of his abandonment—force her to evaluate everything she thought true about herself. Sara J. Henry’s riveting, award-winning debut will keep readers engrossed right up to its shattering conclusion.