Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz lives in a posh, suburban world of 1970 Boston. From the outside, her parents' lifestyle appears enviable - a world defined by cocktail parties, expensive cars, and live-in maids to care for their children - but inside their five-bedroom house, all is not well for the Kunitz family. Coming home from school, Sarah fins her well-dressed, pill popping mother lying disheveled on their living room couch. At night, to escape their parents' arguments, Sarah and her oldest brother, Peter, find solace in music, while her two younger brothers retreat to their rooms and imaginary lives. Any vestige of decorum and stability drains away when their mother dies in a car crash one terrible winter day. Soon after, their father, a self-absorbed, bombastic professor begins an affair with a younger colleague. Sarah, aggrieved, dives into two summer romances that lead to unforeseen circumstances. In a story that will make you laugh and cry, Night Swim shows how a family, bound by heartache, learns to love again.
What a fantastic debut novel! The writing was great, the characters interesting, and the story gripping. You can't help but get caught up in the lives of the Kunitz' as their facade of a picture perfect family begins to crack and crumble. We have a father who is self-absorbed, a mother who blames her children for everything, a son who runs away, two little ones who hide behind their imagination and a rebellious teen-aged daughter - talk about dysfunctional!
When her mother passes away, we find the teen-aged daughter, Sarah, struggling to come to grips with her grief. Feeling more and more disconnected from her family, she chooses to fall into the arms of boys and summer flings. As a result of her romantic entanglements, Sarah is left to deal with some unforeseen consequences long after summer is over.
Heartbreaking at times, Night Swim makes for quite an emotional read. You can't help but feel Sarah's angst as she itches to become a woman, or shed a tear or two as you realize how truly broken this family is. Keener has done an excellent job with her observations and portrayal of a dysfunctional family. She has created a strong character with Sarah and you can't help but find yourself relating to her at times. The quite strength and vulnerability that Sarah exudes makes you feel compassionate towards her and has you realizing that in spite of her teen-aged(ness), Sarah is still a child. And, truthfully, you can't help but be amazed with this world that Keener has created.
Night Swim is a book that I would definitely recommend to everyone looking for a good read- you will not be disappointed! I know that I'm looking forward to reading more of Keener's work in the future.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with copy of the book!