Night Swim

Night Swim

3.4 104
by Jessica Keener

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Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz lives in a posh, suburban world of 1970 Boston. From the outside, her parents’ lifestyle appears enviable—a world defined by cocktail parties, expensive cars, and live-in maids to care for their children—but inside their five-bedroom house, all is not well for the Kunitz family. Coming home from school, Sarah finds her…  See more details below


Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz lives in a posh, suburban world of 1970 Boston. From the outside, her parents’ lifestyle appears enviable—a world defined by cocktail parties, expensive cars, and live-in maids to care for their children—but inside their five-bedroom house, all is not well for the Kunitz family. Coming home from school, Sarah finds her well-dressed, pill-popping mother lying disheveled on their living room couch. At night, to escape their parents’ arguments, Sarah and her oldest brother, Peter, find solace in music, while her two younger brothers retreat to their rooms and imaginary lives.

Any vestige of decorum and stability drains away when their mother dies in a car crash one terrible winter day. Soon after, their father, a self-absorbed, bombastic professor begins an affair with a younger colleague. Sarah, aggrieved, dives into two summer romances that lead to unforeseen consequences.

In a story that will make you laugh and cry, Night Swim shows how a family, bound by heartache, learns to love again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Keener's debut novel is a coming-of-age story that begins, like so many remembrances, with a voice from the past—middle-aged Sarah Kunitz is married with three grown children, but is called back to her own childhood when an unexpected email arrives from Mickey Fineburg, the boy she kissed under a broken pool table at age eight. The majority of the novel comprises vivid vignettes wherein Sarah recalls being a teenager in 1970s upper-class suburban Boston, the only daughter among three brothers. When Sarah's mother tragically dies in a car crash, the young protagonist is prematurely propelled into adulthood and its concomitant dramas of sex, self-discovery, and coping with inevitable loss. While each chapter feels self-sufficient, their loose ordering lends a dreamlike quality to the novel, appropriate for a recollection begun at a "deep hour" of night, when time "doesn't follow lines but circles and dips into underwater caves." Though occasionally belabored by grander themes for the most part left unexplored (e.g., Sarah's Jewish heritage and brushes with anti-Semitism), as well as unbalanced language (compare the weirdly comic description of a sexual encounter as "a quick, slippery ride" with the poetically strange notion of the sun resembling a fetus), Keener's evocation of a young woman coming into her own is nevertheless moving. (Jan.)

Product Details

Fiction Studio
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

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Night Swim 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 101 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Night Swim is such a sweet and delightful read at times, and yet so sad and nearly brutal in its honesty at others. The book is perfectly paced. I finished in two sittings, because I just could not put it down. I can't wait to see what Jessica Keener does next."
leoraskolkinsmith More than 1 year ago
What a splendid, passionate novel. I LOVED THIS. I felt inside each character, their sorrow and their "solos" were mine, too. Sarah could have been my friend sitting behind me in school and the author made me want to turn around and see her, see inside her. There is such a beauty to the work as well, its language, its quietness, the way it is kind of separate "solos" played without grandiosity, by people we recognize. Just the human yearnings and vulnerabilities that make us feel so fragile, that we all recognize as our own. I highly recommended this sensitive, unusual book. A tender debut by an author I'll be watching closely from now on.
BookReflections More than 1 year ago
The Kunitz family looks perfect on the outside, but on the inside they are falling apart. Sarah's mother is clearly unhappy and seems stuck in the past when her family needs her most. Yet, she is described so eloquently that she doesn't seem like a bad mother, but rather, like an individual that wasn't quite meant for this world. Sarah's father wants to keep his family whole but can't quite seem to get control, which he is well aware. Sarah and her siblings attempt to navigate the world the best way they know how. Sarah and Peter disappear into their music and the younger siblings disappear into the world of fantasy, animals, and books. Tragedy strikes and like many of teenagers, Sarah doesn't know how to cope. Unfortunately there is little help to guide her way. Oh a tangled web Ms. Keener weaves. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, but I find it quite difficult to write the review. It's one of those stories where you try to describe it but in the end you say, "Well you just had to be there." I can't write a description or synopsis of this book to fully describe this book because the beauty is in the writing and how Ms. Keener unveils each part of the story. She takes an ordinary, and perhaps sad, story and weaves it into a song that you can't quite get out of your head. The story sounds quite simple but it is so much more than that. The writing is fabulous, making the reader turn each page with eagerness and trepidation at the same time. The characters are flawed and human. I wanted to shake each and every one of them but thought they needed a few hugs as well. While I wouldn't call this book, plot driven, I did find myself tearing through the pages. Ms. Keener creates a complex story that deals with loss, racism, sex, and consequences. Yet, hope and healing seems to be the true theme. While the story is touching, it is the writing that sets it apart from all the rest.
BookHussy More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written novel about a girl, her family and the loss of her dysfunctional mother. It is very touching and and interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For some reason this book kept you interested enough to keep reading it. I kept waiting for something "more" to happen. It never did! I would not recommend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This family went from being bullied by the father to a tragedy tnay changes them forever.i found myself wanting to bake a pan of cookies then wrapping my arms around them so they could grieve properly. Such a good book that will follow you everywhere until you give in and just finish it already
mjmutch More than 1 year ago
I am just not seeing what everyone is raving about here.  A depressing book with sullen characters who misbehave in self destructive ways.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So boring and sad it was painful. I kept reading, thinking it had to to get better....there had to be a point...and then it stopped abruptly. Dont waste your time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was less a story than a group of anecdotes from a family's history. I felt like the author's style shone through in individual sentences, but I'd have enjoyed this book more if the threads had woven together smoothly rather than been randomly stitched here & there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Horrible read. I did not finish this book. Going back and forth thru her life was not a good read.. Won't buy from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two stars only because of the writing style. I would rather have read a grocery list or the dictionary. The most boring, inconsequential book in my memory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If I hadn't just paid good money for this book I never would have finished it. I really disliked it. I thought the writing was awful. It was trite and predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Night Swim is a sensitive and poignant look at the life of what appears to be an ideal suburban family that is falling apart at the seams. Sarah is a compelling sixteen year old who watches, as if in a dream,  the unraveling of her family as both mother and father abandon  her for very different reasons. This story is told seamlessly and like Sarah herself, it is funny, sad, wise and honest, giving the reader  a chance to grow with Sarah as she finds ways to console herself and heal. It is a powerful work of fiction and a MUST READ for adults  and young adults alike! Amy Lederman, author of "One God,Many Paths: Finding Meaning and Inspiration in Jewish Teachings."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first this book didn't seem my cup of tea, so I rushed through it and then agreed with the reviews of "disjointed" and "depressing". But there were some rave reviews so I started over-- looking for what I missed. I like to lose myself in adventure, steamy romance, and the comfort of happily ever after. You won't find that here. What you do find are some interesting observations and revelations from a teenaged girl in a time and place very different from the current, "politically-correct", socially tolerant preachings of today. I am glad that I want back to see that she wasn't just another self-absorbed teen disconnected from her family. She reads them all and brings them to you. Not a pretty story. Some things are rushed or glossed over. Others may drag a bit. You have to squint to see that HEA. But I feel it was worth the reading (even taking the second, more thorough, time through)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I finally gave up after 90 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so boring. I skimed thru the end. I never did figure out what the prolouge had to do with main part. It didnt make sense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You win some, and you lose some. For me this was a loser. Too busy, with too many issues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very poor writing. Felt the author eas trying too hard to 'over write' everything, trying to be another Ernest Heminway or something and fell far flat. The characters never developed deeply enough to care about before they were rushed off somewhere else, and suddenly the book ended and it never really explained if it was in the present time for the main character or if she was still in the past. Glad it was a free friday because if i had of paid money for this i would really be angry. Would not recommend at all and will not be looking for any more books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book although I felt at times there wasn't enough character development. While reading I felt like I was looking at snapshots of the people involved and not really being given the whole picture. Well worth the read, however. Very nicely written.
madmaxine1 More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Wonderfully written. The characters came to life. I highly recommend.
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