Learning to Swim

Learning to Swim

by Sara J. Henry


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“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.”

When she witnesses a small child tumbling from a ferry into Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. Harrowing moments later, she bobs to the surface, pulling a terrified little boy with her. As the ferry disappears into the distance, she begins a bone-chilling swim nearly a mile to shore with a tiny passenger on her back.
     Surprisingly, he speaks only French. He’ll acknowledge that his name is Paul; otherwise, he’s resolutely mute.
     Troy assumes that Paul’s frantic parents will be in touch with the police or the press. But what follows is a shocking and deafening silence. And Troy, a freelance writer, finds herself as fiercely determined to protect Paul as she is to find out what happened to him. What she uncovers will take her into a world of wealth and privilege and heedless self-indulgence—a world in which the murder of a child is not unthinkable. She’ll need skill and courage to survive and protect her charge and herself. 
     Sara J. Henry’s powerful and compelling Learning to Swim will move and disturb readers right up to its shattering conclusion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307718389
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 02/22/2011
Series: Troy Chance Series
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

SARA J. HENRY has been a columnist, soil scientist, book and magazine editor, Web designer, writing instructor, and bicycle mechanic. Learning to Swim is her first novel. 


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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Learning to Swim 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 106 reviews.
LeftTurnLady More than 1 year ago
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.
goguins66 More than 1 year ago
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!
davidkubicek More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the story and the characters were totally interesting. This is a great book that you will not want to miss!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book. Engaging mystery & characters. I would read another book by this author.
MrsKelp More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very very good read
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
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
Sharon17 More than 1 year ago
Highly unrealistic, plot holes you could sail a ship through, lackluster characters, sloooowwwww and tedious, dull, dull, dull.
TerriBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good mystery novel, with some unusual twists. I fell in love with the main character, Troy, although she sometimes does things that make we want to say, "What are you thinking?!" I am very fond of the Lake Champlain region, so that added an extra reason to like the book. This is an easy read, keeps you going. I have to admit to getting a little confused at the very end -- was there really enough time for all that to happen in the months Paul was being held? It seemed a bit of a reach, so I had trouble accepting it. But I certainly recommend the book.
bdouglas97 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel, especially as a first debut. The story kept your attention and had a good twist at the end. I had a hard time believing that the heroine, Troy, could swim as well as she could based on the fact that she was not really a swimmer according to her. To have her jump off a ferry into really cold water, swim a good ways and rescue a drowning child and then swim to an island, as well as fight in the water at the end of the book was a bit of a stretch. Also, it seemed too much of a coincidence for her to find the perpetrator the way she did.... but still, for a first novel, applause!
bookmagic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel was different than anything I had read recently and I enjoyed it well enough. The synopsis is a bit misleading because it doesn't take long for Troy to track down where Paul is from and what happened with his family. Also, he doesn't stay a secret long as Troy brings him back home. For me, that was where the book sort of let me down. It doesn't just become about Troy's relationship and connection with Paul, but also with his father.There were a couple of twists and turns but a lot of the last half of the book was a little predictable and not quite the thrill ride it was suggested.I do think it was well-written and Troy is an interesting character, I just wouldn't say this knocked my socks off. It was a fast read, just not as deep (no pun intended). My expectations were just a bit high and that colored things. But I would recommend this, just beware the hype.
mysterymax on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wish we could give half stars! I really enjoyed the book, but it wasn't as good as A LESSON IN SECRETS which I gave four stars, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the wine mystery that I gave three stars. So for me it is 3 1/2. In spite of the fact that it isn't as well written as Winspear's book, it does keep you reading. The culprit was obvious once the "child's mother's body" was found.I look forward to her next book, I think Henry has story-telling talent and will only get better.
saratoga99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
May be considered light fare, but enticingly suspenseful enough to keep me up until I finished. I enjoyed it because I was familiar with and attached to the memories of the settings of Lake Placid, Burlington VT, Lake Champlain and lovely Montreal from my "salad days." Sara J. Henry's admirable debut introduced us to Troy Chance, a character not only worthy of another adventure, but also one who may be capable of measuring up to a favorite female investigator in an alphabet series.
walterqchocobo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway. This turned out to be a very good mystery novel from a first time author. The main character, Troy Chance, witnesses a little boy falling off the back of a ferry. She dives in to save him but is shocked to find that no one seemed to be looking for him. Troy is normally a pretty level headed person but rescuing this boy changes her. Rather than going directly to the police, she tries to find the boy's parents. It seemed a little out of character for Troy to go so far in her attempts to solve this mystery but plausible explanations were given so I went with it. Well paced and well written mystery. I would definitely pick up another one of this author's books.
picardyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Woman jumps into lake, rescues boy who fell off a ferry. Too much telling, not at all credible.
MargaretdeBuhr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book - especially for first novel!! Couldn't put it down - great suspense and I especially liked the character development.
dianaleez on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting premise, but the reliance on coincidence just doesn't ring true.
nyiper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Moves right along---great mystery, lots of twists and turns. The ending made sense and overall I was quite pleased. I liked her characters and their descriptions---you really felt as though you knew them. Very hard to put it down once you're into it!! I'm sorry this is her first---I want more!
cacky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good debut novel. Interesting heroine, Troy Chance. A nice plot twist. My problem with the book was that the plot seemed to take a backseat to setting up the characters for a series. Good enough that I look forward to the next.
techeditor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
LEARNING TO SWIM by Sarah Henry begins, you guessed it, in the water, Lake Champlain, specifically. Troy (female) jumps into the lake from her ferry boat when she sees what appears to be a child falling from a passing ferry boat. This not-very-good swimmer somehow manages to find the drowning little boy, resuscitate him, remove his sweatshirt that ties his arms, then swim to shore with him. The rest of Chapter 1 bugged the heck out of me: while Troy does call the police, she won¿t give them her name or tell them where she is. Then she calls her boyfriend to explain why she isn¿t coming over, but she doesn¿t tell him what happened, either. I didn¿t have high hopes for the rest of the book.But I was pleasantly surprised. Turns out, Troy had reasons for not telling anyone. This issue was not ignored, as I had feared. Now she has quickly become attached to the boy, who finally tells her his name, Paul. Troy later meets Paul¿s father, Phillipe, and becomes personally involved with their lives in Canada and law enforcement there.Throughout the story is the question: who tried to drown Paul? Troy has other questions as well, but that one question is what they all boil down to. The book becomes more and more suspenseful as every character, particularly Phillipe and his brother-in-law, is suspect and as Troy¿s willingness to help Paul threatens to put her in danger.This is a good thriller, and my initial impression was proved wrong. After Chapter 1, I was no longer aggravated by Troy¿s mishandling of the legalities of Paul¿s situation, and the story became more and more suspenseful with every subsequent chapter.I was, however, aggravated that the book contained several grammatical errors throughout. Perhaps these stood out for me because I'm a technical editor, and most readers won't even notice. Regardless, Henry did say on her Facebook page that these will be corrected in the paperback edition of LEARNING TO SWIM.I recommend this to readers who love thrillers and would appreciate a change from what they normally read, the formulaic mysteries/thrillers. This is different. And I¿m happy to tell you that Henry plans a sequel.