Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller sitting next to me for a few months. The wonderful people at Tin House sent me an early copy and I was thrilled. I noticed though it was not going to be published until February and I would have to wait for this incredible book. I loved her first book- Our Endless Numbered Days and I couldn't wait to tear into this one, but I had to wait.
Then Book of the Month did a wonderful thing and released the book early as a selection for December! I had my excuse! I could read the book and review it now. Thanks to BoTM. I am so glad I had the excuse as this is a heartbreaking story, but Fuller did it again.
There are two stories going on throughout this book. One is the story of Flora and her sister as they go to the bedside of Gil, their father. He jumped from his balcony when he said he saw his ex-wife Ingrid. The problem is Ingrid disappeared years ago and was thought to have killed herself or some thought Gil murdered her, but no one knows the truth.
The other story is the story of Ingrid and Gil, told from Ingrid's perspective through letters she wrote to Gil about their life together and stuck in between his books. It is the story of a womanizing, famous husband who is never home and the woman who is left behind struggling to keep the family together. Stuck home with kids, as Gil does his thing. The letters build to the day Ingrid will disappear.
Each story is about broken relationships as the childish Flora has a strained relationship with her sister and her father. Even though she has heard things, she simply does not want to believe them. Ingrid and Gil's story gives light to how the sisters acted as children which helps one see why they act the way they do in the present.
There is such a feeling of stuckness too. The town seems tiny, Ingrid seems trapped, and here Flora and her sister must co-exist to care for their dying father who wasn't part of their life. They are trapped in their lives because of the man at the center of it all- Gil.
Fuller has an incredible voice and she develops characters quite well. There were bits of callbacks to letters Ingrid had written in the beginning that play out in the sisters. In some ways, they don't really grow up, at least Flora didn't. Fuller's writing voice is just right for a story like this one.
I really enjoyed this one and I thank Tin House for the early copy. The advanced copy in no way helped change my opinion of the book. I would have given this one 4.5 stars either way.
Here is a link to Book of the Month- right now you can take 30% off of 3 months and get a free tote!