NATIONAL BEST SELLER • From the best-selling, award-winning author of The Buddha in the Attic and When the Emperor Was Divine comes a novel about what happens to a group of obsessed recreational swimmers when a crack appears at the bottom of their local pool. This searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters—and the sorrows of implacable loss—is the most commanding and unforgettable work yet from a modern master.
The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief.
One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice's estranged daughter, reentering her mother's life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline.
Otsuka (The Buddha in the Attic) delivers a quick and tender story of a group of swimmers who cope with the disruption of their routines in various ways. The regulars at a pool range in age, ability, and swimming habits, and are connected by an incessant need to swim. When a crack shows up in the deep end of lane four, the swimmers all grows nervous about the pool's future. While the "nonswimmers" in their lives (also known as "crack deniers") dismiss the swimmers' concerns, the swimmers collectively discover how the crack "quietly lodges itself, unbeknownst to you, in the recesses of your mind" except for cheerful Alice, who has swum in the pool for 35 years and now has dementia. Some members stop going to the pool out of fear, while others try to get close to the crack. Just before the pool is closed, Alice determines to get in "Just one more lap." Otsuka cleverly uses various points of view: the swimmers' first-person-plural narration effectively draws the reader into their world, while the second person keenly conveys the experiences of Alice's daughter, who tries to recoup lost time with her mother after Alice loses hold of her memories and moves into a memory care facility. It's a brilliant and disarming dive into the characters' inner worlds.