An Oprah Editor’s Pick and NPR Best Book of the Year
From the author of the award-winning and word-of-mouth sensation Our Endless Numbered Days comes an exhilarating literary mystery that will keep readers guessing until the final page.
Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.
Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.
As she did in her first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days (2015), Fuller proves to be a master of temporal space, taking readers through flashbacks and epistolary chapters at a pace timed to create wonder and suspense. It’s her beautiful prose, though, that rounds this one out, as she delves deeply to examine the legacies of a flawed and passionate marriage.
—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
As in her gorgeously harrowing Our Endless Numbered Days, Claire Fuller returns to the territory of a mother’s disappearance and a father’s lies with bewitching and page-turning results. If anything, Swimming Lessons is an even more complex puzzle box of a book, excavating darkly knotted family secrets, intricately cruel betrayals and layers of ambiguous loss. Fuller is so clear eyed, poised and psychologically shrewd in the unfolding of her tale, you will be kept guessing until the final penetrating sentence. An extraordinarily smart and satisfying read.
—Paula McLain, author of THE PARIS WIFE
Swimming Lessons continues Claire Fuller’s mastery of beautiful language and heartbreaking imagery, which lays bare the stories of infidelities, lies, revivals of love and then demise of those loves. The women of this novel fight for their very souls, and their stories unfurl like flags of independence appearing in to wave from her landscape of great books and art and hope
—Susan Straight, author of BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HERE
Claire Fuller has captured love in its fullest form, nursed on betrayal and regret and guilt. Gil cheats on and abandons his wife too many times, until she disappears, leaving her clothing on the beach, and he can’t know even if she’s still alive. She leaves only letters, hidden in a great library of books, and he’ll search for her until his end. Swimming Lessons is so smoothly, beautifully written, and the human failures here are heartbreaking.
—David Vann, author of AQUARIUM
Claire Fuller’s acrobatic new novel, about a family who has failed each other, inverts our expectations of narrative time to an astonishing effect: our experience of grasping for truth about those who have left is just as pained and urgent as her characters’. Fuller’s sentences are condensed maps of the human process, unfolding in patterns we immediately recognize.
—Kathleen Alcott, author of INFINITE HOME
Swimming Lessons hovers in the electric space between secrets and connection, between the desire to love and urge to hide. This is a biting, soaring novel.
—Ramona Ausubel, author of SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF EASE AND PLENTY and NO ONE IS HERE EXCEPT ALL OF US
Fuller’s tale is eloquent, harrowing, raw . . . [this] mystery is sure to keep readers inching off their seats.
Saving the best for last with revelations and surprises, Fuller’s well-crafted, intricate tale captures the strengths and shortcomings of ordinary people to show how healing is possible by confronting the darkest places.
—Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
When everything we read or watch these days seems to be a facsimile of something else, it’s inspiring when a writer of Claire Fuller’s talent comes along to give us something fresh and original. In Swimming Lessons, Fuller explores the all too familiar pull of duty, expectation, and guilt between a family in emotional turmoil with an unsentimental eye, recalling some of the best work of the late, great Richard Yates. Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, was nothing short of brilliant and I’m here to tell you that she has officially avoided a sophomore slump with this gem of a book. My only complaint is that I have to wait until January of 2017 to share this with the reading public. Claire Fuller is my new favorite.
—Javier Ramirez, The Book Table
Claire Fuller is a master of the psychological mystery. In her most recent novel, Swimming Lessons, no one is running around with a gun and no physical violence occurs. And yet damage happens. Families are cut to the bone. And lingering wounds are left festering into adulthood. This is a work that explores the very nature of forgiveness: how much should be forgiven before it becomes a burden, or before it becomes a secret life inside you until you can”t even forgive yourself? It’s a deliciously written story within a story that isn’t over until the last page has been turned.
—Pam Cady, University Book Store
With Swimming Lessons, Claire Fuller confirms her place as a writer of exceptional insight and warmth. This tale of a marriage, of a family, and especially of children bearing the brunt of the fallout of betrayals and abandonment, pulls you in and refuses to let you emerge from the lives of its characters until the tale is finally told. Even then it takes time to shake the spell the book creates. A wonderful follow-up to OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS that explores similar themes through an entirely different story, Swimming Lessons will be a great book for fans of her first novel and for new fans alike.
—Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books
Claire Fuller’s Swimming Lessons is a beautifully told literary mystery that weaves together the lives and loves of people defined by deceit and a questionable disappearance. Like her debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, Fuller tiptoes brilliantly through delicate subjects.
—Joanne Berg, Mystery to Me
I loved it and was caught up in it so thoroughly that it was my companion during every meal I ate until I finished the book. I have also never felt so inclined to leave marginalia in a book as I did after reading Swimming Lessons.
—Katie Orphan, The Last Bookstore
I could not put Swimming Lessons down and read it in one sitting! It lingered in my thoughts long after I finished. Marvelous! A must read!
—Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette Bookstore