From the best-selling, award-winning author of The Buddha in the Attic and When the Emperor Was Divine comes a novel about what happens to a group of obsessed recreational swimmers when a crack appears at the bottom of their local pool—a tour de force of economy, precision, and emotional power.
The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief.
One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice's estranged daughter, reentering her mother's life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline. Written in spellbinding, incantatory prose, The Swimmers is a searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters, and the sorrows of implacable loss: the most commanding and unforgettable work yet from a modern master.
About the Author
JULIE OTSUKA was born and raised in California. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine won the 2003 Asian American Literary Award and the 2003 American Library Association's Alex Award. Her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2011 and won the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the 2011 Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. The Buddha in the Attic was an international best seller and the winner of the prestigious Prix Femina Étranger in 2012, and the Albatros Literaturpreis in 2013. She lives in New York City.
“A quick and tender story of a group of swimmers who cope with the disruption of their routines in various ways . . . Otsuka cleverly uses various points of view: the swimmers’ first-person-plural narration effectively draws the reader into their world, while the second person keenly conveys the experiences of Alice’s daughter, who tries to recoup lost time with her mother after Alice loses hold of her memories and moves into a memory care facility. It’s a brilliant and disarming dive into the characters’ inner worlds.” –Publishers Weekly [starred review]
“Distinguished best-selling novelist Otsuka’s (Buddha in the Attic) latest is an introspective work that examines life’s journeys from a multitude of perspectives . . . Otsuka’s spare, dreamlike writing offers readers a deeply touching exploration of the impact on Alice’s Japanese American family (particularly her daughter) of caring for a loved one with dementia. Otsuka is noteworthy for her skilled storytelling and her ability to immerse readers in her characters’ emotional journeys. Essential reading for those already familiar with Otsuka’s work; those who haven’t read her are likely to be duly impressed." –Shirley Quan, Library Journal [starred review]
“Award-winning, best-selling Otsuka is averaging one book per decade, making each exquisite title exponentially more precious. Here she creates a stupendous collage of small moments that results in an extraordinary examination of the fragility of quotidian human relationships . . . Once more, Otsuka creates an elegiac, devastating masterpiece.” –Booklist [starred review]
“Having concentrated on one family in her first novel, then eschewed individual protagonists for a collective ‘we’ in her second, Otsuka now blends the two approaches, shifting from an almost impersonal, wide-lens view of society to an increasingly narrow focus on a specific mother-daughter relationship . . . The combination of social satire with an intimate portrait of loss and grief is stylistically ambitious and deeply moving.” –Kirkus Reviews [starred review]