cover image Swimmers


Julie Otsuka. Knopf, $23 (176p) ISBN 978-0-5933-2133-1

Otsuka (The Buddha in the Attic) delivers a quick and tender story of a group of swimmers who cope with the disruption of their routines in various ways. The regulars at a pool range in age, ability, and swimming habits, and are connected by an incessant need to swim. When a crack shows up in the deep end of lane four, the swimmers all grow nervous about the pool’s future. While the “nonswimmers” in their lives (also known as “crack deniers”) dismiss the swimmers’ concerns, the swimmers collectively discover how the crack “quietly lodges itself, unbeknownst to you, in the recesses of your mind”—except for cheerful Alice, who has swum in the pool for 35 years and now has dementia. Some members stop going to the pool out of fear, while others try to get close to the crack. Just before the pool is closed, Alice determines to get in “Just one more lap.” Otsuka cleverly uses various points of view: the swimmers’ first-person-plural narration effectively draws the reader into their world, while the second person keenly conveys the experiences of Alice’s daughter, who tries to recoup lost time with her mother after Alice loses hold of her memories and moves into a memory care facility. It’s a brilliant and disarming dive into the characters’ inner worlds. (Feb.)