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Swimming Lessons
356 pages; Tin House Books
In this delicate novel, Flora returns to her seaside childhood home in rural England to help her dying father. Joining her is her one-night-stand boyfriend and her sister, a midwife. Complicating the situation, Flora's father now believes he has seen her mother, Ingrid, who disappeared years ago and was presumed drowned. Is he delirious? Or has Ingrid really returned—as Flora so longs to believe? What makes this novel so piercing are the letters from Ingrid that alternate with Flora's story, detailing the love affair she had with Flora's father in all its romance, pain and complexity. Married by age 21, kicked out of university for being pregnant, struggling to understand her husband's secrets while trying to raise two girls, Ingrid is a brave but floundering heroine who puts down "all the things [she hasn't] been able to say in person" in her letters, resulting in a portrait so intimate, you feel as if you've read a novel written on the secret walls of her very mind. A deeply moving read, with a mystery that keeps you turning pages.
— Leigh Newman