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Swim Back to Meby Ann Packer
Synopses & Reviews
From Ann Packer, author of the New York Times best-selling novels The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words, a collection of burnished, emotionally searing stories, framed by two unforgettable linked narratives that express the transformation of a single family over the course of a lifetime.
A wife struggles to make sense of her husbands sudden disappearance. A mother mourns her teenage son through the music collection he left behind. A woman shepherds her estranged parents through her brothers wedding and reflects on the year her family collapsed. A young man comes to grips with the joy — and vulnerability — of fatherhood. And, in the masterly opening novella, two teenagers from very different families forge a sustaining friendship, only to discover the disruptive and unsettling power of sex.
Ann Packer is one of our most talented archivists of family life, with its hidden crevasses and unforeseeable perils, and in these stories she explores the moral predicaments that define our social and emotional lives, the frailty of ordinary grace, and the ways in which we are shattered and remade by loss. With Swim Back to Me, she delivers shimmering psychological precision, unfailing intelligence, and page-turning drama: her most enticing work yet.
"Packer's sterling collection is framed by two novellas. In the opener, 'Walk for Mankind,' teenager Richard Appleby describes his bittersweet relationship with Sasha Horowitz, a rebellious, risk-taking 14-year-old, who has a clandestine affair with a drug dealer. Sasha's behavior is a reaction to her controlling and hyper-charming father, an English professor who's spiraling downward professionally and personally. 'Things Said or Done' is set three decades later, when Sasha, now 51 and divorced, has become Richard's caretaker, forced to deal with his self-destructive, narcissistic personality while recognizing the ways in which they are alike. Packer's talents are evident in these psychologically astute novellas, and also in the stories in between. 'Molten' conveys a mother's grief over her adolescent son's senseless death; 'Dwell Time' features a protagonist's happy second marriage — until her husband disappears. In the affecting 'Her First Born,' a new father finally understands his wife's attachment to the memory of her first child, who died. The only misstep is 'Jump,' whose lead character, a rich man's son who fakes an underprivileged background to work in a photocopy shop, lacks credibility. Packer (The Dive from Clausen's Pier) presents complex human relationships with unsentimental compassion. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"As funny as it is sad....Full of revelations...near perfection....[A] lovely, masterful collection." Mameve Medwed, Boston Globe
"Most readers know Ann Packer from her best-selling debut novel. Swim Back to Me is even better, richer, more insightful. Packer can break your heart—and she can mend it, too. Easing readers in with recognizable characters facing familiar situations...she then injects a detail that makes us see the situations in a whole new light....This fine work [is] surprising and absolutely true." Karen Holt, O, The Oprah Magazine
"Astute....Anyone intrigued by the ways we both fail and save one another will find ample food for thought here." Kim Hubbard, People
"Ann Packer has a talent for creating authentic, absorbing characters — and it’s on full display in Swim Back to Me." Ladies’ Home Journal
"[Packer] illuminates the instant, in the darkest hour of grief, when the heart opens wider than ever before — and shows us a new way of being." Pam Houston, More
"A novella and five stories limn with acuity and empathy the intricate negotiations and painful losses of family life....[Packer’s] prose is deceptively simple, her insights always complex....Touching, tender and true....As rich and satisfying as Packer’s two fine novels." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Stunning....Well-crafted and engaging....These California stories are expansive and open-ended. It’s hard to let them go." Sue Russell, Library Journal
From the best-selling author of Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, her strongest work yet — a collection of burnished, impossible-to-put down narratives framed by two stunning, linked novellas.
A wife struggles to make sense of her husband’s sudden disappearance. A mother mourns her teenage son through the music collection he left behind. A woman shepherds her estranged parents through her brother’s wedding and reflects on the year her family collapsed. A young man comes to grips with the joy — and vulnerability — of impending fatherhood. And, in the masterly opening novella, two teenagers from very different families — one a tightly knit foursome, the other a father and son who share little more than having been abandoned by the same woman — forge a sustaining friendship, only to discover the disruptive and unsettling power of sex.
Swim Back to Me showcases one of our most vibrant talents at the height of her powers — a book that belongs beside Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Amy Bloom’s Where the God of Love Hangs Out.
About the Author
Ann Packer is the author of two best-selling novels, Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen's Pier, the latter of which received a Great Lakes Book Award, an American Library Association Award, and the Kate Chopin Literary Award. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Vogue, and Real Simple. Also the author of Mendocino and Other Stories, she lives in northern California with her family.
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