Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry

Learning to Swim is Sara J. Henry’s excellent debut novel featuring a slightly quirky, but beguiling protagonist. You’ll be quickly drawn in to the mystery surrounding the little boy’s disappearance and sudden resurrection.

From Goodreads: “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. 

Troy Chance (female) is living an offbeat life in Lake Placid, NY. One day, while on a ferry to Vermont, she sees what she thinks is a child being thrown into the water from the ferry heading the opposite direction. Instinctually, she dives in, rescues the child and swims to shore. Here, the reader is pulled into a delightfully twisted kidnapping plot, where few are quite who they seem to be.

I am not usually much of a mystery reader, but I really enjoyed Learning to Swim. I liked that the protagonist wasn’t a rich (Stone Barrington), drop dead gorgeous (Sookie Stackhouse) detective (Lucas Davenport – though I do love the Prey series) with a doctorate degree (Alex Cross). Troy Chance is an average, everyday freelance writer struggling to get by. She has to take in roommates at her rambling house in Lake Placid. She doesn’t have dozens of close friends, but instead a few she has come to rely on. She is absolutely normal, which makes the story far more relatable.

For me, there was nothing obvious about the resolution of the plot. I truly wouldn’t have guessed the outcome, so it was a pleasant surprise. There were a few things left hanging in the novel (a few instances of “but that’s a story for another time…”), which I initially found irksome. Then I figured out this was going to be a series, so more likely than not my questions will eventually be answered if I continue to read. As a general rule, I do not enjoy series (The Dark Tower and A Song of Ice and Fire series being exceptions), so I’m a bit hesitant to see where it goes. However, because I enjoyed Learning to Swim so much, I am sure I will read ‘A Cold and Lonely Place’ (book two, February 2013). Bottom line: 3.5/5. It is an excellent debut novel.

Paul’s first meal post rescue is pizza and you know I can’t resist a good pizza recipe. Pesto + Pizza = a good thing.

Photos: Goodreads, Williams Sonoma.

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