Title: Learning to Swim
Author: Sara J. Henry
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Troy Chance is on a ferry near Lake Placid, NY when she sees something awful: a young boy falling off a ferry coming from the opposite direction. Troy realizes that no one else has seen the boy fall, and makes a split second decision to go into the water after the boy. When she finds him, she makes a startling discovery – the boy is wearing a sweatshirt in which the sleeves have been tied around him like a straitjacket – someone tossed the boy off the ferry and wanted him to drown. Unsure of who to trust, Troy takes the boy (named Paul) home in order to determine her next move.
Learning to Swim is a book I’ve had my eye on for some time. The premise seemed tantalizing – a lost boy whom someone was seemingly trying to kill, and the woman who wandered into a complicated situation by being at the right place at the right time. It immediately makes the reader ask, “Who would want to kill a poor, innocent child, and WHY?” This is the driving force behind the novel, and it keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end.
Troy is a wonderful main character. She (don’t be fooled by the name – the main character is a woman!) is smart, resourceful, and determined. From the second she rescues young Paul, she feels a protective instinct towards him. She knows someone out there is trying to hurt him, and she will put herself between Paul and anyone who might want to harm him. Sometimes she doesn’t make the smartest choices, but when the reader remembers that her first goal is to protect Paul, and not herself, it’s understandable.
The mystery in Learning to Swim is incredibly well done. Henry takes the reader on twists and turns, never letting the reader stop guessing who the guilty party is. Additionally, Henry’s descriptions are amazingly vivid, creating a haunting atmosphere that surrounds the entire book. At the beginning, readers will be able to feel the coldness of the water against their skin as Troy is diving to save Paul. They’ll feel her apprehensiveness and her desire to protect Paul at any cost. Henry’s writing really involved me in the story, such that I felt like I had a personal stake in it.
Learning to Swim was a very impressive debut novel. The characters are well drawn and the story is intriguing. I read this book in one sitting because I was so invested in Troy and Paul, and I needed to know what would happen to them. I’m so glad I picked this book up, and I can’t wait to see what Sara Henry takes on next.