Book #1 – The Night Swimmer

by Matt Bondurant

I recently watched the movie Lawless andThe Night Swimmer was intrigued by the story, and the fact it was written by the grandson of one of the bootlegging main characters.  I decided to check out his work but didn’t want to read The Wettest County in the World which inspired Lawless.  Luckily his third novel was recently published and seemed interesting.

This is my first review, and I imagine the only rule to be no spoilers.  So, what prophetic words can I share without giving away the specific things which caused my opinion?  Not much.  I started this book and was immediately consumed by the idea (American couple winning an Irish pub), the main character and her voice (she has a genetic “abnormality” which allows her to tolerate cold and make open water swims) and the concept of starting anew in a place so different from the known.

Bondurant is a master of prose.  Despite not loving poetry, I found myself really pausing to soak up the descriptive language.  He creates characters who are compelling, and although not a swimmer or traveler to foreign destinations, I was mesmerized by both.  Every time main character Elly enters the water the reader can’t help but feel as though they are swimming beside her.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the book, I realized Bondurant was losing me.  What had begun as an exciting opportunity for a loving married couple, quickly turned into two people pushing each other away.  The times they were together in a scene was uncomfortable.  How quickly what we imagine to be what we want the most ends up destroying what we already enjoyed.

Despite reading every word in the book, and having a college degree, the last few chapters were hard to understand.  When the book ended I was lost.  Not wanting to appear ignorant in this first review, I perused the world wide web seeking enlightenment about the ending.  Turns out hasn’t covered this book yet.  I felt vindicated in my confusion when I discovered site after site with people also seeking an explanation of the ending.

Numerous reviews on were pretty divided into two camps.  Those of us who had no clue what happened and felt the author just wanted to end the book; and the second camp who criticized those of us who were confused and suggested we need to be spoon fed the facts as in a Sherlock Holmes novel.  Hmmmm.  Perhaps one day I will take this one of the shelf and re-read to see if I “get” it the second time.  Perhaps not.



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