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Lifeguarding: A Memoir of Secrets, Swimming, and the South [Kindle Edition]

Catherine Mccall
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $13.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In her sharply observed and ultimately redemptive memoir, Catherine McCall paints a vivid and sometimes heartbreaking portrait of growing up in a complicated Southern family, whose perfect façade hides crippling imperfections.

There are two parents, three children, and five ghosts in the McCall family. With their preppie clothes and country-club smiles, the McCalls look like all the other East End Louisville families. No one knows there are problems, that an internal gash the size of the Ohio river is flooding the family. All Cathy and her siblings can do is promise to stick together no matter what—and swim.

But even though they are fast, the McCall kids can’t outdistance their father’s destructive habits and their mother’s worry. As her family reaches a breaking point and an unexpected love blooms, thirteen-year-old Cathy finds she must keep secrets of her own. Though the love in this family is strong, Cathy must discover if it’s tenacious enough to withstand the truth.

Candid, captivating, and infused with compassion, Lifeguarding affirms the flexible strength of love itself; how family bonds must often bend to the point of breaking . . . and beyond.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this powerful and surprising memoir, psychiatrist and first-time author McCall describes a Carson McCullers childhood, growing up in segregated 1960s Louisville in a house haunted by the ghosts of her grandparents, who all died suddenly and young. As is the case with most haunted houses, there are secrets. The McCalls were members of Kentucky society, but her father's alcoholism—less and less well-hidden—spins the family into financial turmoil and social ruin. McCall, her older sister, Anne, and younger brother, Curt, champion swimmers, never make the hoped-for Olympics. Anne must eschew her debutante ball and go to Duke on a scholarship. But it is McCall's secret—lesbianism—that threatens to derail the family altogether and makes her contemplate suicide more than once before she finds the strength to pull herself from the emotional undertow. In this immensely compelling and deeply moving memoir of love and redemption, McCall's tale evolves with lyric languor and builds to a stunning ending. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A beautiful book in every way. Written with grace and gentle confidence . . . the sentences are captivating, the real-life characters surprise us with their turnabouts, and the ongoing metaphor of swimming in dangerous waters arises naturally from the landscape of a childhood spent swimming—and watching the unlucky innocent drown.” —Philip Gerard, author of Cape Fear Rising

“A wise and beautiful book. The writing is graceful, searching, and aware. I finished Lifeguarding feeling grateful and admiring of its power. Catherine McCall is a mandatory voice.” —Brad Land, author of Goat

“Lyrical, funny, and heartbreaking by turns, Lifeguarding is a light shined into a dark room. . . . This is the story of the American Every Family swallowing its own secrets.” —Sarah Messer, author of Red House

Lifeguarding is a tender and gentle exploration of one girl’s journey of healing . . . Serves to remind us that confronting our fears, that blind underwater struggle, is always worth the effort.” —Virginia Holman, author of Rescuing Patty Hearst

“There is, in every well-examined life, a turning point—a time when propriety yields to honesty and fear gives way to courage. This is Catherine McCall’s story, beautifully told, tenderly recollected.” —Beth Kephart, author of Ghosts in the Garden

“If you read only one book a year–here it is.” —Clyde Edgerton, author of Lunch at the Piccadilly

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 297 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1400098181
  • Publisher: Crown (July 11, 2006)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,198,773 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read! August 7, 2006
Wow! I bought this book to read while I was traveling but got roped in and finished the book before my travels even really got under way -- each chapter leaving me curious to what came next. I read deep into the night (although I should have been packing and cleaning) and then finished it waiting for the first leg of my trip the next morning. I thought the book was a courageous, compelling telling of one family's story. While I didn't have the same experiences as the author, she did an excellent job of putting enough detail on different levels that I am sure many readers,like myself, will be able to connect with the story and the struggles. Silly superficial things like the gold shell/bear/lion belt buckles, oversized glasses, and three musketeers bars at the pool snack bar made me smile and transported me back to those days. Other things like her sister being the bossy big sis made me cringe --that was my role in life. Her various descriptions of living in her household brought tears to my eyes because to a certain degree, that was my life.

I read a lot of books about families and family dynamics (both fiction and non-fiction) and usually walk away with some new understanding or lesson. After finishing this book, I found it hard to get into the next two books (both fiction, and both very good books -- Memory Keeper's Daughter and Vanishing Acts). I guess life can be stranger (and much more powerful) than fiction! I thought Lifeguarding was terrific!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a memoir November 9, 2006
I thought i was burned out with memoirs and along comes "Lifeguarding." Congratuulations to Catherine McCall for an honest, truthful memoir written in a straightforward manner, without the strident, over-the-top, self-proclamation and heavy-handed confessionals that have dominated the genre. This story flows gently but strongly and is a blessed change from the norm in this genre. Read it!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
As a clinical social worker, my review of this book was more than just a quick summer read which is what I initially picked it up for when I saw it advertised in Entertainment Weekly. After reading the first few chapters, I found myself identifying with this family and the struggles of a young woman finding her identity among many aspects of dysfunction and struggle. The author wove her journey in an indepth and genuine way as she went through this process. Unlike other books where family stuff and personal life stuff (with the exception of Prince of Tides, I think) the book took us places that most authors skim over. My comfort with myself and my own life story helped me see how the parallels could be made and applied. I found myself feeling for the different family members. I wanted to hear that sucess and connectedness happened and that the issue of sexual orientation, although different for a family that was struggling in other ways, gave the whole focus to true love and loyalty for them. The conversations the McCall's had and the pain and joy they had were what many middle class and perhaps even upper and lower class people experience. However, I identified with the middle class value of wanting to be at another level and yet moving in and out of all levels while staying in tact. It would have been easy for any of them to run from the family but the McCall's appear to have stayed the course and worked with each other through the 'muddy waters'. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a deep read that will make you think, feel and is worth taking the time and it is easy to get through in a day or two!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous! November 18, 2006
Treading water, deciding whether to sink or swim, Catherine McCall's "Lifeguarding" is a stunning memoir and well worth the read.
"Lifeguarding" is about a middle class family leading a country club life but what appears to be real is false. Her father, a mediocre insurance salesman, drowns himself in booze and debt. To keep their lives afloat, Catherine's mother gets a job teaching. As she hides their family secrets, Catherine hides one of her own . . .
She is gay.
Catherine's struggle to understand her sexuality, her unconventional desires in a conventional time, makes "Lifeguarding" an unusual story. Her feelings and frustrations flow from pen to page. It is beautifully written, poignant and moving. Going into bars to remind her father to come home, or waiting for him to arrive for a day at the state fair, the reader is right there with the writer.
Catherine McCall takes us back to the agonies of adolescence, when life was supposedly simple. It reminds me of trying to win in the wrong lane. I'm happy to report . . . Catherine McCall is victorious!

Laurie Ames Birnsteel
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