Want to know what our staff members have been reading? Check out our review of “The Swimmers” by Julie Otsuka! Visit rockhillpubliclibrary.org to put this book on hold.
This new novel from best-selling author Julie Otsuka is about a group of recreational swimmers whose lives are impacted when a crack mysteriously appears at the bottom of their beloved community pool. Otsuka’s captivating prose makes the mundane extraordinary as she explores the swimmers’ relationships with each other and with the pool itself. The book pays particular attention to Alice, an elderly Japanese American woman with dementia who is a regular at the pool.
In the first part of the novel, readers take a deep dive (pun intended) into the swimmers’ varied reactions to the discovery of a crack in the pool. Some of the swimmers are wary about the crack; others are in denial. Some stop swimming altogether while others continue their routines as if nothing has changed. This microcosm of American society meets its inevitable demise when the pool closes and its once-devoted swimmers go their separate ways.
The second part of the novel shifts its focus to Alice as the shuttering of the pool affects her routine and her health. When Alice’s dementia worsens, her family must cope with the aftermath. Readers witness her gradual decline as well as gain insight into Alice’s life pre-diagnosis, including her time spent in a Japanese internment camp during WWII.
Alice eventually ends up in a memory care center where her mental deterioration is documented by her daughter. What follows is poignantly written, heartbreaking, and well worth the read.
What fascinated me most about this novel is Otsuka’s unique writing style and her ability to pack so much detail into the minutiae of Alice’s and the other swimmers’ routines. The end result is an enchanting, deeply moving novel about the struggles of a woman in the throes of dementia and how she relates to her community and family. I loved The Swimmers!