Tag Archives: Book Club Reading List

Review: The Swimmers

The Swimmers

The Swimmers
By Julie Otsuka
Knopf, 9780593321331, February 2022, 192pp.

The Short of It:

This slim novel packs a punch.

The Rest of It:

When the story opens, we meet the swimmers. A group of people who frequent the community pool for laps, sometimes social interaction, but mostly as a form of therapy. The busyness of their lives comes to a halt once they submerge themselves in the water. All the noise of the world is drowned out and they are left with their thoughts as trivial as some of them may be.

As their routines unfold daily, Otsuka takes note of each detail. Almost in a checklist format. We learn about the rules of the pool and how some of the swimmers follow them religiously, and some not so much but never enough to lose their pool privileges because it’s clear that each of them value that time in the water.

The second half of the story focuses on a startling flaw that appears in the form of a crack, along the bottom of the pool. What does it mean? Is it just cosmetic? Will it grow larger? Does it represent a larger issue that could jeopardize their cherished swim time? As with most changes in routine, the appearance of this crack does not go over well.

In fact, we see how it affects these swimmers, specifically Alice who is suffering from dementia. Her time in the pool, and the regular interaction with the other swimmers is what holds her memory together but as soon as that is disrupted, her memory begins to slip away even more quickly. Her daughter relays to the reader her mother’s time in the Japanese internment camp and how bits of those memories float around untethered only to disappear all together.

The Swimmers is a little sad but also wonderful. Otsuka brings importance to every minute detail.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Good Neighbors

Good Neighbors
Good Neighbors
By Sarah Langan
Washington Square Press, 9781982144371, October 2021, 320pp.

The Short of It:

No good neighbors here. This is an example of how an entire neighborhood can fall prey to rumors, lies, and accusations if the right person makes it her mission to to see a neighborhood into ruin.

The Rest of It:

You might have a Maple Street in your neighborhood. That perfect cul de sac neighborhood, that borders a park, is home to many families and children, and yes, drama, lots of it.

One very hot summer, the maws of Maple Street literally open as a result of global warming and climate change. Their once idyllic neighborhood is now home to a very large sink hole. One that oozes noxious fumes and sludge that covers every surface, shoes, walls, car tires, carpets. You name it. The neighborhood kids, affectionately called The Rat Pack (sarcasm) congregate as best they can while the sink hole seems to have its own life. But when something happens to one of their own and the accusations start flying, the inhabitants of Maple Street begin to take sides and just short of a lynching, one family finds themselves as the target.

I found it interesting that the street in question is Maple Street. Do you remember that Twilight Zone episode where all the neighbors turn on each other? It was called The Monsters are Due on Maple Street and that same title applies here. Seemingly sane people become anything but that. Common sense goes out the window and the family at the top of their list struggles just to live in this hostile neighborhood.

At first, my book club didn’t think there would be much to discuss but we took the entire time discussing the book and how, although a bit ridiculous when it came to the sink hole, we all agreed that a neighborhood could easily turn if the right person was stoking the fire. Think of your neighborhood groups like Next Door. I cannot belong to these groups. Their constant chatter about a kid on the corner, or a car driving by more than once, gives me anxiety. But it just takes one person to stir up hysteria in a neighborhood.

This was not an enjoyable read. There is a lot of nastiness going on but it was suspenseful even though much of the plot points are given away at the top of each chapter via news articles. I had absolutely no problem flying through this one. I had to know how it all ended given how grim the story was.

Have you read it? It was a good book to discuss.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.