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The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

The Swimmers - Julie Otsuka

What a unique book.  Who? What? Why? Does this all really matter?  These questions popped up in my mind, one at a time, as I read this book and the more that I read, the more I felt these questions had a deeper meaning.  Perhaps, this book wasn’t just about this time, this place, and these characters but it was about life in general.


I found that the sentences in this book flowed yet sometimes they felt quirky as I read them.  They weren’t bothersome but they just felt chunky as the words bounced across the page.  I’ve never read anything from this author before so it took me a while to appreciate her writing style.  Julie walks you into her books whereas I am used to jumping into books where everything is introduced from the get-go. Julie slowly got me up to speed and then, she presented the information I needed to know and I wasn’t used to this pacing. 


It was interesting how this pool became such an important part of the lives of the individuals who used it.  There were those who used it for its health benefits while others used the pool for its recreation, social and entertainment values.  Whatever their reasons were for changing into their swim attire and heading to the pool hole, these individuals felt they were part of their own community.  This was one of their comforting spots. It becomes an automatic part of their routine.  This part of the book hit me hard. 


Perhaps because as I’m getting older and I see how a routine plays a major part in my life and in the lives of others around me. Whether that be: a weekly television series, a bedtime routine, a child’s routine, or a morning wake-up routine, we all become rooted in a routine somewhere down the line.  Depending upon that routine, we know that by following it, we can achieve success and completion of the actions.  What happens if you don’t follow the routine or if you skip a step in the routine?  What if you change jobs and the hours that you work? Suddenly life is out of balance and everything is in a state of disarray.  In Swimmers, the pool community like their routine, just like we all do.  Yet, a change is coming, a change some of them don’t want to acknowledge.


There’s also the story of Alice in this book.  Alice was a swimmer when I first met her but her medical condition put limits on her as the books progressed.  Alice’s story has a great tie-in with the pool and her relationship with her daughter provided some great emotional moments for me, as I read.  They were sweet and at times, those moments gave me those goosebump, ah moments.  Those times where you have to look away from the book, for all the letters have begun to blur together until it’s just a mass of black on white.  I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would.  I feel that I have missed out on Julie’s previous books and now, I plan on reading them as soon as I can.