An Oprah Editor's Pick and NPR Best Book of the Year
From the author of the award-winning and word-of-mouth sensation Our Endless Numbered Days comes an exhilarating literary mystery that will keep readers guessing until the final page.
Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.
Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.
"Gil Coleman looked down from the first-floor window of the bookshop and saw his dead wife standing on the pavement below." This provocative sentence opens Fuller's (Our Endless Numbered Days) second novel, and an intriguing epilogue ends it; in between is the story of a woman's failed marriage. When Ingrid Coleman disappeared from a Dorset beach, her years of swimming alone in the sea are presumed to have caught up with her, but her body is never found. Neither are her letters to Gil recounting their years together, tucked within the pages of books in his library, until that fateful day in the bookstore when he spies one while searching for the notes and marginalia that so fascinated him as an author. The novel unfolds in dual timelines. Ingrid's one-way correspondence effectively and uncomfortably reveals her unraveling within an unhappy marriage to a selfish man unsuited for fidelity and fatherhood. A present-day story line provides younger daughter Flora's sometimes less-well-delineated point of view; she returns home to join her sister, Nan, in caring for Gil after he injures himself chasing after Ingrid. Fuller successfully creates two discomfiting narratives, a strong backdrop for the story's essential mystery.
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This novel leads you on a journey of love found and love lost. Beautifully written and thoroughly entertaining.