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Night Swim [Kindle Edition]

Jessica Keener
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)

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Book Description


Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz lives in a posh, suburban world of 1970 Boston. From the outside, her parents' lifestyle appears enviable - a world defined by cocktail parties, expensive cars, and live-in maids to care for their children - but inside their five-bedroom house, all is not well for the Kunitz family. Coming home from school, Sarah finds her well-dressed, pill-popping mother lying disheveled on their living room couch. At night, to escape their parents' arguments, Sarah and her oldest brother, Peter, find solace in music, while her two younger brothers retreat to their rooms and imaginary lives. Any vestige of decorum and stability drains away when a family tragedy occurs one terrible winter day. Soon after, their father, a self-absorbed, bombastic professor begins an affair with a younger colleague. Sarah, aggrieved, dives into two summer romances that lead to unforeseen consequences.

In a story that will make you laugh and cry, NIGHT SWIM shows how a family, bound by heartache, learns to love again.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When her mother is killed in a car accident, Sarah, 16, lives in “a cavity of pain,” and each chapter in this eloquent first novel captures the teen’s anger, guilt, loneliness, and sorrow at her wrenching loss. Part of a Jewish family in a rich 1970s Boston neighborhood, she is not into politics, uninterested in Nixon and Vietnam, not much bothered by the occasional “dirty Jew” slur she hears at school. She likes comics and music and her gorgeous classmate Anthony. What does enrage her is Dad’s relationship with his new girlfriend. Always true to the teen’s viewpoint, the spare prose will hold readers as Sarah fights with her brothers, bonds with the housekeeper, tries to blame her dad for the accident (why did he let Mama drive alone?), and deals with her first sexual relationship. Rooted in personal sorrow, this memorable debut will strike a universal chord with readers: “Life was full of befores and afters.” --Hazel Rochman


"This memorable debut will strike a universal chord with readers--" Booklist
"Keener's observations perfectly capture a certain kind of 1970s adolescence"--The Boston Globe
"This earnest debut centers on Sarah as she tunnels through new depths of loneliness...moving." --The New York Times
"Keener's writing is lovely; she manages to build sentences that are both precise and ornate."
Jewish Book Council

"--a masterfully told tale. The emotional depth of this novel has me constantly recommending it to friends in book clubs." Largehearted Boy
"Keener isn't afraid to tackle controversial topics and meets them head on, with strength and precision in her writing that's not only beautiful, but poetically lyrical--" A Soul Unsung

"this one was near perfection...and I very rarely say that. This is an author I will be following." 5 stars, Books Like Breathing

"Keener's prose is spectacular, almost poetic. I found myself rereading many of the passages just to experience the beauty of her written word. She gives the reader the gift of a wonderful, honest, coming-of-age story. At just under 300 pages it is not a long read, but one that will resonate." Jenn's Bookshelves

Night Swim is a beautifully written coming-of-age story that focuses on the mother-daughter relationship.Book clubs will find a lot to talk about, including parenting, grieving, teen sex, sibling relationships, and the healing power of music." Candace, She

Product Details

  • File Size: 534 KB
  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1936558262
  • Publisher: Story Plant, The (September 10, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DY0KT5O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,337 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GET YOUR COPY NOW!!! SUPERLATIVE!!! January 17, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Night Swim is an exemplary coming-of age story of sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz. Jessica Keener leads us into the deeper waters of the family angst with a raging father and a mother who is but a shadow of herself, barely there, and three younger brothers who survive the inner turmoil through music, books and the fantasy world of a child.

Keener doesn't shy away from class issues, race issues, extreme loss and mourning, injustice, anti-Semitism, psychological abuse by the father and Sarah's first teenage experiences with sex.

Keener's words are fluid like music, which she quotes throughout the book, as Sarah moves through her familial world trying to understand it. When Sarah's mom dies in what is construed as a passive suicide, the youngest son, Elliot, is the wise soul that Sarah finds consolation in. "In his nine-year-old mind that had matured emotionally beyond the clumsiness of his body, he said that God was like clay and that all things on earth came in different shapes - including mother - and that mother had simply been remolded, but still remained a part of us."

Keener is a master at building the narrative slowly and rhythmically. Sarah gains her confidence, her voice and her independence through the beautiful relationships she shares with her brothers, the maids and her parents in this heart wrenching and unforgettable story of the underbelly of a family who appear to have it all from the outside, yet behind those curtains there is a restrained hell breaking loose.

Keener rips through to the core of what matters most in life - letting go of the secrets and revealing the truth. Night Swim is a superlative novel and a smooth read. It's one of those books you never want to come to an end.

I highly recommend Night Swim to all! Order your copy now! You will be happy that you did!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing December 23, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was on sale and nearly every review I read, even the negative ones, praised its lovely prose. I thought I'd give it a try. It had been a long time since I'd read a book like this.

But it frustrated me. The prose was lovely; it was true. Keener has a talent for weaving a unique and evocative phrase. But I feel as if the story and its themes didn't match the depth of her writing skill.

Keener drives almost absent-mindedly through this tale of a teenage girl dealing with the grief of her mother's death. That backbone to the story seems to get lost in crushes, drug use, sex, bigotry, and music. Time skips along, huge chunks of life go missing, gulped away as the reader is introduced to a new series of moments that Keener has deemed noteworthy. Don't get me wrong, the author vividly describes all of these experiences with the kind of detail and craft most authors skip out on. But they just seem loose, barely connected by the wisps of grief courting the edges of the story.

I felt like the protagonist, Sarah, wasn't going anywhere. And, although I'm sure Sarah felt that way (especially because Keener liked to build paragraphs out of the questions wheeling through Sarah's mind), I didn't want to feel that way as a reader. Meanwhile, as aimless as Sarah seemed, I sometimes felt like Keener was just going through a recipe for "litfic novel." Here were the allusions to pop culture. Here were the repeating symbols (tunnels and funnels came up a lot). Here were the finely-crafted sentences describing the emotional heartbeats of a life-changing moment. After a while I got frustrated and just wanted the book to be over so I could move on to something that might have a few more surprises, a few imperfections, and not feel so contrived.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring... July 14, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sorry to deviate from the glowing reviews, but this book was boring and stereotypical. I felt like anything that could happen did happen. This book tried to wrestle with a lot of issues, but ended up glossing over them. (Almost reminded me of Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons, but thank god not that long!) Also, I did not like the fact that at the beginning of the book, we were introduced to Mickey, but he was never really heard of again. The times when she flashed back to the present was very disruptive and did not, in my mind, do anything for the novel until the end. And the ending itself... very abrupt. I am glad I downloaded this for free.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A young girl's pain from inside-out December 3, 2011
NIGHT SWIM will take you deep inside the thoughts, feelings, and experience of a young girl's journey through painful family circumstances, while also capturing the time period. Growing up in the 70's meant growing up in a time of chaos, change, and being part of historical growth for the nation. Keener captures the time, while keeping the reader firmly in the point of view of a sixteen-year-old girl's experiences. The music, the changing cultural mores--it's all here, along with a lyrical style of writing that is it's own music.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written Novel February 24, 2012
Just what constitutes a perfect family? Is it having both a mother and father? Is it belonging to the country club and having lots of money? In Night Swim, debut novelist Jessica Keener gives us an in-depth look into a so called `perfect family and what sometimes lurks behind the facade?

To the outside world sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz's life looks pretty good. Her parents live pretty high with parties, expensive cars and even a live-in maid to take care of the chores and help with Sarah and her three brothers. Looks can be deceiving though and much of the time the kids sit nervous and waiting for the next blowup from their father who likes to have complete order and control of his household. Sarah's mother, who blames her children and arthritis for making her give up a career playing the violin handles things by popping as many pills as she can manage and always having a drink at hand.

When Sarah's mother dies in a car accident the lives of the Kunitz family are forever changed. Yet for Sarah she has felt her mother slipping away for a long time, trying to leave them. She had finally succeeded. Her father, already more concerned with himself than his kids, begins to see a younger lady friend who had been friends to both of her parents at one time. None of the kids are happy with this but Sarah especially so. This woman can't take the place of her mother and Sarah is angry with her father for starting to see someone so soon after her mother's death.

Drifting along Sarah, anxious to grow up and having no guidance to steer her otherwise delves into a few relationships with boys.
Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I can't say it was the best story I ever read
I can't say it was the best story I ever read. I didn't have the urge to hurry up and finish because it really caught my interest. I felt that it lacked a plot. Read more
Published 10 days ago by sjm1955
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good story
Published 18 days ago by Jane Amico
3.0 out of 5 stars A valiant effort for a first book, but...
I bought this Kindle book last summer for $0. Finally read it just now, completely forgetting what it was supposed to be about. Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. McLeod
2.0 out of 5 stars After finishing this book, I'm wondering why I even finished it...
The book started off strong. I was very impressed with the authors attention to detail and the ability to use analogies in an amazing way. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Will write better review after having actually read the book :)
Still have yet to read this as I have a bunch of books to get through. Will try to remember to revisit this review once read and write what I thought about it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by echogirl
4.0 out of 5 stars a snapshot of life
A beautiful glimpse into a young life and the courage it takes sometimes to find happiness despite monumental, yet common place events.
Published 5 months ago by Barb
5.0 out of 5 stars A night swim in all of us.
This book reaches deep inside for everyone who had a family outside the norm. The turbulent sixties and the people who survive a dysfunctional family will be touched in a way that... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ronda Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars OK Read
Kind of a slow start, then caught your interest. Ending was kind of a letdown as the characters weren't completed.
Published 9 months ago by Carla Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read...
I really liked this book, and will read more by this author.
Published 9 months ago by Sandra L. Greathouse
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Quirky, interesting read
Published 9 months ago by Pearldiva
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More About the Author

Jessica Keener's fiction has been recognized in The Pushcart Prize under "Outstanding Writers," and won Redbook magazine's second prize. Her debut novel, Night Swim, has been widely praised by reviewers and book bloggers including The New York Times, which called Night Swim "an earnest debut" and "moving." The Boston Globe said "Keener perfectly captures a certain kind of 1970s adolescence," and Booklist said "this memorable debut will strike a universal chord with readers." Her work has appeared in scores of national publications and literary magazines, most recently in Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Huffington Post and The Nervous Breakdown. She is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist's Grant and was a finalist in Breadloaf's Bakeless novel competition.

Look for her new collection of stories, Women In Bed, chosen as one of ten winter reads by Shape Magazine; and one of 12 best fall reads by editors and lauded by National Book Circle Critics award winner, Edith Pearlman who says: "Jessica Keener is a master at immediacy."

For more than a dozen years, Keener's feature articles have appeared in The Boston Globe; O, The Oprah Magazine, Coastal Living, Design New England. She co-authored Time to Make the Donuts with William Rosenberg, founder of the worldwide coffee and donut franchise.

Night Swim reached the top ten paid bestseller lists: Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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