Review: Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

What It’s About:

When recently divorced Katie Ellis and her rescue dog Bark move back in with Katie’s grandmother in Florida, she becomes swept up in a reunion of her grandmother’s troupe of underwater performers—finding hope and renewal in unexpected places.

Aspiring costume designer Katie gave up everything in her divorce to gain custody of her fearful, faithful rescue dog, Barkimedes. While she figures out what to do next, she heads back to Florida to live with her grandmother, Nan.

But Katie quickly learns there’s a lot she doesn’t know about Nan—like the fact that in her youth Nan was a mermaid performer in a roadside attraction show, swimming and dancing underwater with a close-knit cast of talented women. Although most of the mermaids have since lost touch, Katie helps Nan search for her old friends on Facebook, sparking hopes for a reunion show. Katie is up for making some fabulous costumes, but first, she has to contend with her crippling fear of water.

As Katie’s college love Luca, a documentary filmmaker, enters the fray, Katie struggles to balance her hopes with her anxiety, and begins to realize just how much Bark’s fears are connected to her own, in this thoughtful, charming novel about hope after loss and friendships that span generations.

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My Thoughts:

Swimming for Sunlight was my first time reading Allie Larkin’s work.  It is a lovely story about love, friendship and second chances.

I adored all the characters.  Grandmother Nan and her friends are fabulous!  I fell for the anxiety-ridden heroine who struggles to cope daily; I wanted to hug her, hold her hand, and also give her a little shake for projecting her fears onto her dog.  Katie’s backstory is tragic, and it is probably a little bit more so than needed. However, it does set up the reason she ends up being raised by her grandmother, Nanette, as well as why she returns to her home.

Layed-back Luca is a dream.  Handsome, creative, giving, and totally chill, he is the absolute opposite of Katie, and exactly what she needs.  I didn’t care for Luca’s backstory, and I felt it was an unnecessary addition of the author’s opinion on current politics that detracted from the story.

By far, the best characters are the secondary characters. Katie’s childhood friend, Maureen, is perfection.  She is a devoted friend who <i>sees</i> Katie, and not only accepts every bit of her, but treasures all her “perfects and imperfections”.  Nanette (Nan) and her friends are spry seniors who love every minute of life!  From “martooni” parties to “mermaid” aqua-aerobics classes, they’re delightful. This senior community, was essentially, the village of caring people who helped raise Katie. Their current living situation and friendships are what most people hope for in their golden years.

The plot is well paced, and the story is creative.  I thought there would be a little more focus on the mermaid story with Luca and Katie creating a historic documentary, but this tale was about Katie–and her dog—finding her way after yet another calamity in her life.

In addition to the currently popular politics being inserted into the story, there were a few other things in the story that didn’t work for me. The divorce scene is a bit unrealistic; I doubt a lawyer would have precisely proceeded with Katie’s final decision (and shame on Katie for allowing her anxiety to push her to fall for her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s game). However, it sets the scene and creates a need for Katie to return home.

Author Larkin respectfully presents Katie and her anxiety disorder.  She realistically portrays the lack of understanding and response <i>most</i> people would have to someone with an anxiety disorder.  I also appreciated the presentation of the marvels of social media helping people reconnect as well as the downside of comparing your circumstances with the seemingly-perfect lives presented on sites like Instagram and Facebook.   A fine example was Katie’s “stalking” of the new woman in her ex-husband’s life, and all the unnecessary turmoil it brought.  It’s something you know isn’t going to be good for you, but the pain will eventually help you move on.

Ms. Larkin gives her readers a charming story about the friendship of women and how the support from your family and your tribe allows you to be the best you possible.

About the Author: Allie Larkin is the internationally bestselling author of the novel Stay, and Why Can’t I Be You (2013). She has never ordered a dog off the internet or assumed a new identity to attend a high school reunion. When Allie writes, she wears an oversized circa 1980’s acrylic sweater that is a crime against fashion and good taste in general. She loves Boston. The band, not the city. But the city is great too.

Allie lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Jeremy, their German Shepherd, Stella, and Stella’s stuffed monster, Murray.

 

 

© Copyright 2018 Book Junkie Reviews. All rights reserved.

 

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