Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Books: "Swimming For Sunlight" By Allie Larkin

Swimming For Sunlight: A Novel
By Allie Larkin
Atria; trade paperback original; $16.99; available Tuesday, April 23

Allie Larkin is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Stay and Why Can't I Be You, and her new novel, Swimming for Sunlight, focuses on Katie Ellis and her anxious rescue dog, Barkimedes, who move back to her Florida hometown to rebuild her life.

Katie is also settling her divorce settlement with her husband, Eric, and wants just one thing: custody of her dog, nicknamed Bark.

Larkin writes, "I loved that dog from the second I saw him on the shelter website. He had a face like a German Shepherd, the bat ears of a Boston Terrier, and fluffy Chow fur that was spotted and dappled like a Border Collie. One of his eyes was the richest caramel brown, and the other was a clear bright blue. I needed desperately to save someone, and there he was - Dog 2357 - waiting for rescue.
"I made Eric drive us all the way to Syracuse to adopt him. We got there just in time. Bark was scheduled to be put down the next day.
"Because he was from Syracuse, I thought naming him Barkimedes was hysterical. Eric didn't get it. He wanted to name him Jeter. Plus, Bark ate the back of the passenger seat in Eric's brand new BMW when we made a pit stop at a gas station on the way home, so right off the bat, Eric was not a Bark fan. It went downhill from there.
"For all intents and purposes, Bark was my dog. Every morning I sat on the floor next to his bowl of kibble and drank my coffee with his ribs pressed against mine because it was the only way he'd eat his breakfast. I was the one who knew which patches of floor he was afraid of, and that you couldn't use the stove without first closing him safely in the bedroom with three toys and his favorite blanket, and that when we went to work, he needed the radio tuned to NPR so he could listen to All Things Considered and feel less alone.
"Eric didn't know these things. He didn't bother to learn. He didn't take me seriously when I told him how Bark needed us to act around him. So the one time I left them alone to go to Florida for a funeral, I came back to find shirts shredded, a section of the rug chewed away, and a dog who probably hadn't eaten in four days, cowering in a corner while a basketball game blared on the radio."

Now, Katie is living with her grandmother, Nan, and finds comfort in the familiarity of the home where she was raised, her childhood best friend, and Nan's longtime neighbors who feel like family.

However, Katie quickly learns that a lot has changed since she was away. Nan is almost unrecognizable, as she is toned, drinks hemp milk, and teaches aquatic dance class. She shows Katie photos from her youth, when Nan danced underwater as a mermaid performer in a roadside attraction show, which was based on the real Weeki Wachee mermaids in Florida, and she is clad with a tail and seashell top alongside other young women.

This is when Katie sets out to reunite the long-scattered mermaids and produce a reunion show, complete with elaborate costumes, while attempting to overcome her fear of water.

Meanwhile, Bark is struggling to acclimate to their new surroundings and an old love reenters the picture. Katie struggles to balance her hopes with her anxiety and realizes just how much Bark's fears are connected to her own.

Swimming for Sunlight is a very emotional novel about hope, loss, and friendships that can span generations, including that special bond with a pet.

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