Swimming (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

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9780345442765: Swimming (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

Twenty years ago, Vivian Silver abandoned her dreams of travel to marry the mysterious Jeb Wheeler, seduced both by his unnerving charm and his acres of untamed New Hampshire land. The hand-built house and swimming pond become the center of the universe for their entire family. Lila, their youngest, is consumed with love for her two older brothers, Aaron and Jack, and remains blind to the simmering tension between them. For beneath the surface of their idyllic setting lies a depth of explosive feeling that none of them can control.

Into this heated atmosphere glides Aaron’s girlfriend, Suzanne, whose presence is threatening, exciting; Lila thrills to the ominous quality of Aaron’s absolute adoration for this young woman. Before her visit is over, Suzanne will unleash the forces of rage between Aaron and Jack, compelling one brother to commit an act against the other that can never be taken back.
A decade later, living in New York, Lila still searches for Aaron, who disappeared that night, and Suzanne, whose mystique still exerts a hold on her memory. For Lila to move past her family’s tragedy, she must piece together what happened that fateful weekend–and recover the things lost down by the water–before she can at last let them go.

A stunning literary novel that captures the lingering effects of longing and loss, Swimming is by turns a gripping family story, a heartbreaking coming of age journey, and a suspenseful psychological investigation into the meaning and limits of fidelity, identity, and intimacy.
From the Hardcover edition.

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In her first novel, Swimming, Joanna Hershon juggles a number of heady themes, from fraternal rivalry to fate to the perilous nature of desire. A layered narrative, this tale of familial struggle begins in the 1960s and ends three decades later, evoking such authors as Carolyn See or Carol Anshaw. Like them, Hershon painstakingly investigates the psychological innards of her characters, as if hoping to find what's hidden in their minds. Slowly and carefully she teases out motivations and misgivings, filling in the picture piece by piece.

At the heart of Swimming are the Wheeler brothers, Aaron and Jack, locked in a fierce competition. Aaron's handsome and successful, but repressed. Jack's an outlaw and a drifter, but seems to possess a freedom that eludes his more conventional brother. The boys grew up in the woods with a hippie mother and a stern, elusive father. The isolated house with its hidden pond has a curious power--it's the place where each character meets his or her ultimate test. The water itself becomes the symbol of the Wheeler family's soul, a cloudy medium in which some drown and some float. And indeed, the fallout from one tragic evening on the shores of the pond occupies most of the second half of Swimming.

Hershon has mastered the art of the group scene, and her novel contains many well-wrought dinners, beer bashes, and restaurant meals--forced encounters, in which the Wheelers are nudged out of their shells. And she's got a fine eye for detail: at one dinner, for instance, Aaron notes that "his mother, though animated, looked exhausted, like someone who stayed up all night turning lights on and off." Such vivid observations, combined with accessible, well-delineated characters, make Swimming an absorbing read. --Ellen Williams

From the Back Cover:

"Joanna Hershon has a gift for choreographing a group of characters in space and in time. She is persuasive with moments of sexual passion, and she knows how to make them last for the reader long after the lovemaking is over. In her novel, the past pulses in the present, and we experience these lives with real sorrow, and real hope."
–Frederick Busch, bestselling author of Girls and The Night Inspector:

"Reading Joanna Hershon’s Swimming is like diving in over your head– intoxicating and terrifying at once. Not since Jane Hamilton’s Map of the World have I read such an affecting tale of memory and loss. I couldn’t put it down."
–Sheri Holman, bestselling author of The Dress Lodger

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