Swim to Me: A Novel

Swim to Me: A Novel

3.4 7
by Betsy Carter

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For their grand finale, all the mermaids gathered around a moon rock. One pulled an American flag from beneath her fin and planted it in the ground. A tinny version of "God Bless America" rose up through the amphitheater as the



For their grand finale, all the mermaids gathered around a moon rock. One pulled an American flag from beneath her fin and planted it in the ground. A tinny version of "God Bless America" rose up through the amphitheater as the mermaids stood on their tails and saluted the flag.

Delores hoped nobody noticed the tears sliding down her cheeks. She stayed fixed in her seat, worried that if she stood up, she might break into pieces. There was no name for what she was feeling, only this certainty: whatever she had to do, wherever she had to go, one day Delores Walker would become one of those mermaids.

Editorial Reviews

Miami Herald
"Poignant and at times rollickingly hilarious in its treatment of family ties and losses, as well as finding one's own personal journey, this engaging story, set in the 1970s, never flounders. . . . Carter's unerring sense for human frailty allows Swim To Me to provide a true and entertaining reflection of simpler times."
Miami Herald
New York Magazine
"A delightful escape . . . a sweet, laudable fantasy of good-hearted upward mobility."—New York Magazine
Self Magazine
"An uplifting tale about a city girl who escapes a dysfunctional family and reinvents herself. Even if you're nowhere near the surf, the story will put you in a sunny state of mind."—-Self magazine
Daily Candy
"Carter’s genius storytelling makes it a delightful escape."—Daily Candy
"A wonderfully indulgent read . . . it transports you to a sweet dream world."—Glamour, Oct.
Publishers Weekly

Carter follows her plucky New York journalist's memoir Nothing to Fall Back Onand first novel The Orange Blossom Specialwith another sweet story of self-reinvention. Delores Walker, 17, leaves her troubled home in the Bronx of 1973 to become a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs in Tampa, Fla. There, in a series of fortuitous events, ugly duckling Delores becomes the star of the show, a local hero, the most popular girl in town (although she remains unfailingly nice) and the catalyst for an unlikely family reunion. Carter jumps from head to head without providing much insight into her characters, including the slimily manipulative and ambitious TV producer, Alan Sommers, and the gentle circus giant, T. Rex, who's little more than a vehicle for folksy wisdom. But Carter is less interested in character development than in storytelling, which she does with aplomb, as Delores faces fame-related conflicts, and resort owner Thelma Foote has wisdom to spare. The results are sensationalist, predictable and satisfying. (Aug.)

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Children's Literature - Sylvia Firth
The author's second novel for young people follows a similar theme found in Orange Blossom Special. Seventeen-year old Delores Walker sets out in 1973 to build a new and successful life for herself. Her father abandoned the family a year ago and the dingy apartment in the Bronx becomes even more unbearable as her mother, Gail, works two jobs and leaves most of the care of baby, Westie, to Delores. Delores has always felt a special affinity for the water. She decides to try for employment as a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida. The family had seen the show there several years ago while on vacation. Delores is soon the star mermaid and also becomes a weather forecaster for a TV station in Tampa. After Delores rescues a small boy caught in the sea during Hurricane Claudia, she has a reunion with her father, who happens to be working nearby with a circus. The book ends with a very awkward meeting of the whole family in Weeki Wachee where an entirely new show, that combines elements of the circus with the mermaids, is now a huge success. Teenage girls will probably enjoy this story but it is not necessarily one to be on a first purchase list. Reviewer: Sylvia Firth
VOYA - Julie Scordato
Delores Walker has always been able to swim like a fish, and when her father walks out on her mother, Delores, and her baby brother, Westie, she dares to take a bus trip from the Bronx to Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida, to audition as a mermaid. It is the first time that Delores has dared to do something out of the ordinary, and she not only becomes a mermaid but also gives the weather forecast as a mermaid on the evening news. It is only the beginning for the sixteen-year-old, whose adventures in Florida bring about a strange and unique family reunion. Readers will fall in love with Delores and the rest of her family despite their failings. Equal amounts of struggle and inspiration give this story incredible color and timelessness. Minor characters are well rounded, from the bitter but caring manager of the mermaid show to a potential love interest for Delores to a circus manager. The third-person point-of-view works here, as readers feel that they are being pulled into a story that is at once magical and grounded in reality. This title has real potential as a book-group choice and booktalk title. The one thing it really lacks is a striking cover. With the flood of glitzy covers using photography and clever art, this one will not inspire teens to pull it off the shelf. Depend on hand selling and booktalking it.
Kirkus Reviews
A dreamy, semi-historical novel from Carter (The Orange Blossom Special, 2005, etc.) about a young girl who becomes a performing mermaid at the Weeki Wachee Springs, Fla., tourist venue, in 1970, just as Disney World is cornering the state's tourism market. Two years after her father Roy abandons the family, Delores Walker is living in the Bronx with her adored baby brother Westie and their hardworking but embittered mother Gail. For Delores, who has always loved swimming, a trip to watch the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee when she was nine remains a magical memory of family happiness. So at 16 she makes her way to Florida and is soon a star among the performing mermaids. Having all come to Weeki Wachee after being misfits in the real world, the mermaid girls bond into an informal family under the tutelage of tough but loving Thelma Foote. Struggling to keep her clientele as Disney World's popularity soars, Thelma strikes a deal with a local TV station to use Delores as a weather girl. When Delores saves a child from drowning on-air during a hurricane, she becomes a national celebrity. Roy, who has found peace and his own sense of belonging while working with animals at Hanratty's Circus outside nearby Sarasota, sees Delores on TV and hesitantly contacts her. They end up working together when Hanratty and Thelma join forces to establish a hugely successful business. Meanwhile, Gail has found a mentor at the magazine where she cleans offices at night. While taking a secretarial course to improve her career options, she reluctantly lets Westie visit Florida, where he joins Delores's act. When Gail comes to pick up Westie, all four Walkers reunite as a family, at least briefly. Each has foundthe means to redemption, forgiveness and love. Heavy on sweet eccentricity and uplift, but what could be a better beach read than mermaids beating Mickey Mouse at his own game.

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.74(h) x 1.04(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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From the Publisher

More at home in the water than in the company of her own family, a young woman fulfills her unlikely dream of becoming a mermaid.

Welcome to Weeki Wachee Springs, located on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida. Hailed as the City of Live Mermaids, the fabled Springs has been attracting tourists since 1947, but as of late, business is drying up. As if paying the bills, making constant repairs, and playing den mother and swim coach to a bunch of wayward teenage girls wearing fish tails isn't enough, Miss Thelma Foote now has to find a way to compete with the newly opened Walt Disney Resort and keep Weeki Wachee and its school of mermaids afloat.

It's a fresh start for Delores Walker when she steps off the bus in Tampa to become a minimum-wage mermaid. The family fights, the father who walked out on her, and the dingy Bronx apartment are a thousand miles behind her. With her arrival at Weeki Wachee, luck seems to change for everyone.

In the tradition of Rebecca Wells, Betsy Carter writes of family and sisterhood, of chasing dreams, and of finding your way as she conjures up a time in America when anything was possible—even mermaids from the Bronx.

Meet the Author

Betsy Carter is the author of Swim to Me and The Orange BlossomSpecial. Her memoir, Nothing to Fall Back On, was a national bestseller. She is a contributing editor for O: The Oprah Magazine and writes for Good Housekeeping, New York, and AARP, among others. Carter formerly served as an editor at Esquire, Newsweek, and Harper's Bazaar, and was the founding editor of New York Woman. She lives in New York City.

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3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1973, seventeen years old Delores Walker leaves her troubled family home in the Bronx. She takes the bus heading south where she obtains work as a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida, which she believes is a miracle of sorts as she is not pretty.-------------------- Shockingly, Delores becomes the star somewhat because she is nice and displays enthusiasm in her work and somewhat her imagination with productions like the Merfather spoof brings in audiences who had been going toDisney. Her peers think she is the best and anyone who gets to know her feels likewise. TV producer Alan Sommers sees a chance to work with a human interest story angle on the most popular mermaid, but needs to muddy up the water perhaps with skeletons from the Bronx. Delores tries to remain true to her kind self as she becomes almost famous as a local TV ¿weatherwoman¿ and the invasion of the extended Walker family, but is grateful for wise mentoring by gentle circus giant T. Rex and mermaid attraction owner Thelma Foote.------------------- This is an entertaining character study held in focus by Delores, a likable star attraction. The caring Delores turns the lonely, slick and ambitious into being kinder and friendlier as everyone including readers (with the exception perhaps of her runaway father) feels her warmth and subsequently a need to change. Betsy Carter provides an uplifting historical that brings to life the impact of Disneyworld on 1970s Florida.------------ Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable. It reminded me of Swamplandia and Like Water for Elephants. A unique story of a family that falls apart and has to rebuild itself. The Walkers will stay with you for awhile. Hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story. Agree with the other reviewer. Reminded me of Swamplandia. The story is about a young girl who leaves her mother and brother to become a mermaid in a swim show in Florida. It takes place during the 1970's. The characters are enjoyable and not offensive. Good read for the summer at the beach.
Debby43 More than 1 year ago
I don't think I would highly recommend this to anyone. While it was an ok story I found her ending was not satisfactory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RobbiJane More than 1 year ago
Didn't have much of a storyline and moved rather slow. I've actually visited Weeki Wachi a few times, and their description and my memories don't exactly match. Sorry, but it really wasn't worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago