Learning to Swim

( 68 )

Overview

Winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award

   When she sees what looks like a child tumbling from a ferry into frigid Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. When she gets the child to shore she discovers that his name is Paul, he speaks only French—and no one seems to be looking for him. 
   Her determination to protect Paul pulls Troy from her quiet ...

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Learning to Swim: A Novel

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Overview

Winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award

   When she sees what looks like a child tumbling from a ferry into frigid Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. When she gets the child to shore she discovers that his name is Paul, he speaks only French—and no one seems to be looking for him. 
   Her determination to protect Paul pulls Troy from her quiet life in a small Adirondack town into an unfamiliar world of wealth and privilege in Canada and then in Vermont. Her attachment to him—and the danger she faces when she tries to unravel the mystery of his abandonment—force her to evaluate everything she thought true about herself. 
   Sara J. Henry's riveting, award-winning debut will keep readers engrossed right up to its shattering conclusion.

Winner of the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award
Winner of the 2011 Agatha Award for Best First Novel
Winner of the 2012 Anthony Award for Best First Novel

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A single woman dives headlong from a ferry into Lake Champlain to rescue a child, and then must figure out what to do with him. Compulsively readable, this is all about what we do for love.”  —Boston Globe

“From the grabber beginning to the heartfelt conclusion, Sara J. Henry's Learning to Swim is an auspicious debut ... Fresh setting, well-realized characters, cleanly written, with a mysterious and suspenseful story.” Daniel Woodrell, author of The Maid's Version

“Emotional, intense, and engrossing... The talented Sara J. Henry introduces a thoroughly modern heroine with an independent spirit and a tender heart.” Lisa Unger, author of In the Blood

“A terrific debut. This moving and insightful psychological thriller features the inspiring Troy Chancean everywoman hero who women will admire and men will want to meet. I can’t wait for her next adventure.”
Michael Robotham, author of Watching You
 
“Readers will root for Troy Chance from the dramatic opening of Learning to Swim right through to its surprising close. Move over, Kinsey Millhone.” Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Four Ms. Bradwells
 
“From its shocking opening to its stunning conclusion, Learning to Swim is a frightening ride. Sara J. Henry will quite literally take your breath away.”  J.T. Ellison, author of The Lost Key
 
“A thriller of the most thrilling kinda smart and crafty story with whiffs of Rebecca that insists from the first sentence that you sit down and not stand up again until you've read the last word.”
Quinn Cummings, author of Notes from the Underwire
 
“Henry proves herself to be a smooth and compelling storyteller. And her lead is highly appealing: an athletic, fiercely independent young woman who, like crime-fiction author Gillian Flynn’s feisty females, is capable of making delightfully acerbic observations.” —Booklist
 
“Sara J. Henry’s debut starts with a bang—or, more literally, a splash—and doesn’t let up until the final page.” —BookPage
 
“A compelling plot, a pervading sense of foreboding, well-constructed characters.”  —Kirkus Reviews

 “Take a gulp of air before diving into Vermonter Sara J. Henry’s new mystery, because you’re likely to hold your breath for the whole first chapter.” —Rutland Herald 

A stunner. This disturbing, moving, compelling book will keep readers engaged until the very last page. It is smart, intense, and full of unexpected plot twists.”—Tucson Citizen 

“Part mystery thriller, part family tragedy, part tentative romance, it succeeds on all levels.”—Knoxville News Sentinel

Publishers Weekly
Freelance writer Troy Chance, the protagonist of Henry's impressive first novel, impulsively, and literally, dives into trouble when she sees a youngster fall from a ferry boat on Lake Champlain. Troy manages to rescue the boy, discovers that his fall was no accident, and after brief, anonymous reports to the police, embarks on an ill-conceived attempt to become the boy's protector. Bonding with the boy, she eventually learns his name, Paul Dumond; his age, six; and that he and his mother had been kidnapped and his mother later shot and killed. Troy locates Paul's Canadian father, Philippe, and reunites father and son, but she is unwilling to end her involvement. When the police can't find the kidnappers, Troy starts to probe more deeply into the lives of Philippe, his abducted wife, and Paul's captivity. Henry adroitly handles Troy's exposure to new emotions as she re-examines her life and relationships. An inconclusive ending may signal that Chance's journey is not yet over. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Freelance writer Troy Chance sees a child thrown from a ferry and jumps into the water to save him. Haunted by a past experience with an abandoned child, she decides to be sure that his parents weren't responsible before she notifies the police. She travels to Canada to meet with Paul's divorced father and realizes that she has become more attached to the child than she wanted to be. Accepting an invitation to stay with the family for a few days while Paul recovers from the trauma of his kidnapping, Troy finds herself falling for his father. At the same time, she is unable to leave the investigation in the hands of the police, still fearing that one of the parents could have been involved.Verdict Fans of both mystery and romantic suspense will welcome this promising new author; the unsettled ending hints at a follow-up mystery.—Linda Oliver, MLIS, Colorado Springs
Kirkus Reviews

In Henry's debut novel, a woman goes to great lengths to protect a boy she pulls out of a frigid lake.

Troy Chance happened to be looking at a ferry traveling across Lake Champlain in the opposite direction from hers when she sees what looks like a little boy being thrown overboard. Without thinking, she jumps in and rescues the lad, whose name turns out to be Paul. Instead of taking him to the authorities, though, she brings him home, telling herself that the police would most likely put the boy in foster care, and maybe even inadvertently return him to whoever had thrown him in in the first place. After a few days, Paul, who speaks only French, reveals that he had been kidnapped along with his mother, but that she had been killed by the kidnappers. He also says his father's name is Philippe Dumond, and after a quick Internet search, Troy has a business address in Ottawa. After meeting Philippe, she decides that he could not have been responsible for the kidnapping, no matter what the police might think, and she returns Paul to him. Sensing the bond that has formed between Paul and Troy, Philippe asks her to stay for a few weeks until the boy settles back into his life. Things go well for a while, but before long it becomes clear that Paul is still in danger, and Troy decides that he will never be safe until his kidnappers are captured. This novel has a lot going for it—a compelling plot, a pervading sense of foreboding, well-constructed characters—but the prose is too often bogged down by distractingly insignificant details. We learn how Troy would have eaten sausages and pancakes if the housekeeper wasn't there, what kind of bagel her brother likes, etc. This overabundance of extraneous details creates unnecessary drag.

Well-wrought for the most part, if occasionally a little waterlogged.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307718396
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/20/2011
  • Series: Troy Chance Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 110,944
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

SARA J. HENRY's first novel, Learning to Swim, won the Anthony, Agatha, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards, was a Target Emerging Author pick, and was named one of Best Books of 2011 by the Boston Globe. Her second novel, A Cold and Lonely Place, is an Anthony award nominee for Best Novel and was a Reader's Digest Select Books choice. She has written for PreventionAdirondack LifeBicyclingTriathlete, and other magazines, was an editor at Rodale Books and Women's Sports & Fitness magazine, and was a newspaper and magazine editor. A native of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Sara lives in Vermont. Visit www.SaraJHenry.com.

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Reading Group Guide

1.       The novel opens when Troy dives into Lake Champlain to save a child she had seen only for a split second.  Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you react?
 
2.       Troy describes her attachment to the little boy she rescues as quick and atavistic, and wonders if this is what her sisters felt like when they had their children. Do you think a maternal bond is instinctive and instant? Do you think a similar bond could be formed by people who share a traumatic experience?

3.       Hoping to protect Paul from being put into foster care, or possibly being returned to a bad home situation, Troy keeps him at her home until she can track down his father. Why do you think she does this? Was she right to keep the police out of it?
 
4.       Troy thinks she will be able to tell immediately if Paul’s father had anything to do with his kidnapping. Is it possible to be so sure about a person’s motives based on a first impression or gut reaction? What did your instincts tell you about Philippe when he and Troy first met?
 
5.       In Lake Placid, Troy doesn’t really have to adhere to any schedules or be accountable to anyone, until Paul enters her life. Aside from her lifestyle, how else does Paul change Troy? Are these changes for the better?
 
6.       No one in Philippe’s household talks about Madeleine at all. What conclusions did that cause you to draw about her relationships with Paul and Philippe? Were you right?
 
 
7.       When Claude learned that a body was found that matched Madeleine’s dental records, he was devastated. Did this change how Troy saw him? Did it change how you saw him?

8.       Vince, Marguerite, and Alyssa all gain Troy’s trust quickly, while it takes her a while to warm up to Jameson. Was Troy’s trust always well-placed? Which characters did you find easier to trust than others?
 
9.       Claude and Madeleine grew up in foster care after tragedy struck their family. What role do you think this played in their actions as adults?
 
10.   There are several men in the book that seem to care for Troy deeply, especially Thomas.  Does Troy treat him well?  What do you think her feelings are toward the other male characters, and how well does she handle them?
 
11.   The dogs in the story are all named for fiercer animals. What significance does this have?  Could the characters be looking for protectors? What else was important about the animals?
 
12.   How does the title illustrate the themes in the book? Troy has to swim for her life several times, but do you see any other significance to the title? What else does she learn?
 
13.   At several key moments in the book, Troy reminds herself that he best thing to do is usually the hardest thing. In the end, she makes a particularly difficult decision. Was this the right choice? What about her other decisions? When she responded with ease, did she usually make the right choice, or the wrong one?
 
14.   What’s next for Troy Chance? What issues or characters in Learning to Swim would you like to see explored further?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 68 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(28)

4 Star

(23)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 6, 2011

    An AWESOME read!

    I don't know about you, but when I read a book I want to be captivated by the unfolding story, transported to another time/place and so enamored by the characters that closing the book after I read the final word on the final page is a sad moment. Did "Learning To Swim" deliver? For this reader, the answer is a resounding YES! "If I'd blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn't, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water." Who could not be drawn into a story that starts so quickly? And who could not picture themselves in that moment, wondering what decision they would make in that split second - jump in, call for help or forget what was seen? The minute Troy jumps in and swims across cold Lake Champlain, dives deep to retrieve the boy and gets both of them safely to shore, she becomes my hero. When I learn that no one, absolutely no one, is looking for French-speaking Paul, my maternal instincts kick in, and like Troy, I just want to keep him safe. After these first few pages I am so involved in a craftily woven story of kidnapping, murder, wealth, privilege, deception, trust and yes, a touch of romance, that I follow along, rarely questioning how or why anything is happening. That's what made this book such a fun read, because the author, Sara J. Henry, DID question everything, and dropped the questions into the story like bombs, completely catching me off-guard and taking me on a roller-coaster ride that kept my attention. Every time I thought I knew what would happen next, the story took another detour, and when I finally got to those last pages, I was once again surprised. There is quite a cast of characters, but each one is relevant to the story and introduced so naturally that at times, their importance isn't realized until the end. While Sara rounds out the story very with peripheral details and descriptions, they are not so overwhelming that the story is bogged down with information that doesn't matter. Every person, detail and description has a purpose, and it was only when I got to the end that I discovered how the seemingly unimportant were actually very important, and I appreciated the care with which Sara crafted the story. For me, this book was a great read that had me from the first sentence on the first page. I highly recommend it, and if you enjoy it as much as I did, there's great news! A sequel!!! There's also bad news.we have to wait until February 2012 to continue our journey with Troy and Paul.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    An absolute great read

    I saw this in the "new authors" section at B&N and downloaded it immediately. By the third page I knew I was reading something special. Ms. Henry weaves a suspenseful, adventurous and slightly romantic tale that leaves you eager to find out what happens next. Though I had figured out the ending prematurely, I was not disappointed by the heroine's path to the same conclusion. I eagerly await Ms. Henry's next novel, and am thankful B&N drove me to this one!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2011

    Couldn't put it down

    Great weekend read. It was perfect for a rainy weekend. I was immediately drawn in from page1and couldn't put it down. The characters were interesting and relatable and the plot twists came out of nowhere. I can't wait for Sara henry's next book!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2011

    Great book

    I loved the story and the characters were totally interesting. This is a great book that you will not want to miss!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2011

    An Excellent Debut Novel

    Learning to Swim begins when freelance writer Troy Chance sees a child plummet from the deck of a passing ferry into Lake Champlain. Instinctively, she dives in and saves him, then begins the long swim back to shore. The child, who speaks only French, tells Troy his name is Paul. Other than that she manages only to get sketchy information from him. He tells her he was kidnapped and held in a room somewhere, and that the kidnappers shot his mother. Troy becomes attached to Paul and, instead of going to the police right away, uses her internet researching skills to do some preliminary investigating of her own. She wants to find out to her satisfaction that the boy will be safe if she turns him over to the authorities and he's returned home. She wants to make sure the father wasn't involved in his abduction. Her investigation leads her into deeper involvement with Paul and his father and puts her under suspicion of a local detective who thinks she had something to do with Paul's initial disappearance. After an attempt on Troy's life, she really hits the investigation trail, determined to find the two men who kidnapped Paul. But what she stumbles into is a twist that I never saw coming. Learning to Swim is Sara J. Henry's debut novel. It is a relationship story as well as a mystery, and on both levels it succeeds very well. I highly recommend it.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2011

    Highly recommended

    Troy sees a bundle thrown from a passing ferry and in that split second she realizes it is a child. Without thinking she dives into the water to rescue him. What follows is a great read that will keep you guessing until the end. Fantastic plot twists and the writing keeps you rivited. A great book with well fleshed out characters filled with real emotion. Learning to Swim by Sara Henry is a must read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2011

    Because I'm the author ...

    ... I can't actually write a review, but I can quote from a few others (and can say I hope you enjoy the book): "From the grabber beginning to the heartfelt conclusion, LEARNING TO SWIM is an auspicious debut. Fresh setting, well-realized characters, cleanly written, with a mysterious and suspenseful story. - Daniel Woodrell, award-winning author of WINTER'S BONE "A mesmerizing confluence of mystery, intrigue, and suspense, with undercurrents of deep personal drama, Sara J. Henry's LEARNING TO SWIM will hook you from the first page." - Jamie Ford, author of the bestselling HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET "Author Sara J. Henry has adeptly interwoven a highly gripping kidnapping mystery with the fascinating character study of a woman forced by extreme circumstances to reevaluate everything she thought she knew to be true about herself." - Elizabeth A. White "It's an increasingly rare experience not to see every turn of plot and logic coming around the page, and the ability to sell the reader on the character's logic without shortchanging them on surprise is no small feat. Sara J. Henry pulled it off." -Jedidiah Ayres

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2013

    What would you do if you saw someone dropping a child off of a p

    What would you do if you saw someone dropping a child off of a passing ferry boat?  Jump off into the freezing waters of Lake Champlain from your passing ferry boat, of course!  This is exactly what our heroine, Troy Chance did in this first mystery by Sara Henry.  Then what would you do if no one reported the child missing?  Take him home because you just know his safety is in your hands---maybe not---but Troy did because of a "feeling". 




    The theme of this story was very different from what one would expect, but Sara Henry actually made it seem realistic.  This small, French speaking boy, Paul, clung to Troy but wouldn't or couldn't tell Troy exactly what happened to him.  But he did know that he saw someone shot his mom, and those same people kept him in a room by himself for a number of months.  As Troy searches internet pages and newspapers, she figures that Paul must be a kidnapped boy from Montreal.  Her adventures in finding security for Paul within his own home is an emotional mystery in itself.  But the thrills and life threatening situations she goes through to find his captures truly drives this story. 




    Troy knows her technology, expertly. Her freelance writing career gives her freedom to search her way.  She's fiercely independent, very athletic, and determined to do what she sees as the right things for this little boy who has won her heart.  I found this mystery different from your average story, but it was eerily realistic.  Looking forward to future adventures with Troy! 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2013

    Good read

    Enjoyed the book. Engaging mystery & characters. I would read another book by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 7, 2012

    LEARNING TO SWIM won both the Anthony and Agatha awards for firs

    LEARNING TO SWIM won both the Anthony and Agatha awards for first novel, and I can certainly see why after finishing the book myself. It’s a well-written novel, executed flawlessly, and the writing sings louder than Nickelback in the middle of Central Park. But could I say I really liked it? If I’m to be perfectly honest with myself, I’d say no. I liked it, sure enough, and I could check that box just as easily as I could fill in Cs all the way down the columns of a multiple choice math test.

    I liked the characters, and the characters were filled with flaws and quirks and oddities befitting any well-done novel, but I didn’t love the characters. For me, much of my love of novels comes from voice, unless I’m reading a page-turner from the likes of James Patterson or the late Robert Ludlum, and this novel didn’t have a voice that popped off the page for me. I didn’t have that moment where I wanted to read late into the night, turning the pages until my left hand cramped up, and my vision had blurred because I stayed up much longer than I should have.

    So what happened? This book just didn’t connect with me the way I would have liked it to. Not the author’s fault, but it is what is. I’m not a big fan of criminals spouting off near the end of mysteries, telling the hero why a certain crime was committed, even if the criminal is a psychopath. When it comes to criminals and endings, I prefer Goldfinger’s approach.
    James Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”
    Auric Goldfinger: “No, Mr. Bond…I expect you to die.”

    In the end, though, LEARNING TO SWIM concluded the way it should, with a slight opening that will present more stories to tell for its main character Troy Chance. But I don’t know that I’ll go out of my way to pick up the next book in the series.

    Robert Downs
    Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2011

    Plodding & Unbelievable

    Highly unrealistic, plot holes you could sail a ship through, lackluster characters, sloooowwwww and tedious, dull, dull, dull.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2014

    Highly Recommend

    This novel had me from the very opening. The acton continues to the end with some twists along the way. At one point it seemed a little to wordy, but picked up and moved on finally. I can't wait to read the next Troy Chance book in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014

    Fantastic Page turner

    I read a LOT of mysteries, and this held my interest throughout. Even as I went to work, I kept thinking of the story and couldn't wait to get home to read some more. A woman makes a few unwise decisions about a young boy, but tries to save him from unknown dangers, from family? from murderers?. Another author called this novel mesmerizing. I concur. Even though it's a first novel, it' makes me hope Sara Henry is only beginning to treat us with her stories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2014

    Learning to Swim

    Great read. Hard to put down. Surprising twisrs in plot. Characters were excellent. The ending was not at all what I expected and it has kept me up! I can't wait to read another book by this new author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2014

    Great Book!!!!

    Very very good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    CLASSROOMS ARE...

    Next res and forward. Have ine for p.e. d art and other electives.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    Hooked me in

    I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't so sure I would like this book but after a few pages I couldn't put it down. I just wish the ending might have gone on a couple more chapters and given finality to the relationship that did or didn't happen.

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  • Posted November 11, 2012

    A good suspenseful read! Kept you guessing the whole time!

    A good suspenseful read! Kept you guessing the whole time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2012

    Gave up

    This story just wasnt realistic enough to the point of oh, cmon.
    It was a library rental so im glad it was free.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    Pass

    Captivating story but underdeveloped characters and situations that were not believeable. The story reminds me of a made for TV movie. I finished the book quickly but wanted it to end fast so that I could find something more sophisticated and interesting to read. There was no depth to the story. Many parts were annoying because the main character (who acted as the detective) was not a smart character. Pass on this book or take it out of the library. Not worth the money. Too bad- the story could have been better with significant editing, character development, and many re-writes.

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