Swimming Lessons

Lynne Hugo, Author, Anna T. Villegas, Author, Anna Tuttle Villegas, Joint Author
Lynne Hugo, Author, Anna T. Villegas, Author, Anna Tuttle Villegas, Joint Author William Morrow & Company $21 (224p) ISBN 978-0-688-15977-1
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This female-bonding story of intensifying trust has a marketable, real-life parallel likely to attract prepublication attention: co-authors Villegas (All We Know of Heaven) and Hugo collaborated by telephone, fax and diskette without ever having met. The result (narrated in distinctive, alternating voices) is surprisingly seamless. When Laurel McArthur was six, she watched, mute with horror, as Ohio River floodwaters swept her brother away. Three decades later, a psychotherapist in Auburn, Ohio, she remains phobic about water and decides to arrange private lessons from swimming teacher Marna Whitney. A transplanted, trailer-park Californian (and disappointed Olympic hopeful), Marna has secret self-doubts of her own. She clings with poignant desperation to her husband, J.W., and takes refuge from her insecurities by doing laps, much the way Laurel does by helping her patients. As their friendship deepens, each woman becomes open not only to the other but also to her own potential worth. What's immediately apparent to the reader is that Marna's husband is Laurel's lover, Jake. Surprisingly, this giant coincidence fails to sink the narrative; its biggest weakness is the need to bring closure to peripheral relationships (between Marna and her mother, Laurel and the family of a patient). Despite this excessive neatness, the main story--of two people learning to exist in, then enjoy, what each had thought of as an alien element--is bittersweet and rewarding. Doubleday/Literary Guild featured alternate; author tours. (July)
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