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Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry
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Learning to Swim

by Sara J. Henry

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On a misty evening Troy Chance is standing on the deck of a ferry crossing Lake Champlain. Watching a second ferry carrying passengers in the opposite direction she sees something fall overboard. At the last moment before it hits the water she is positive she saw frightened eyes in the dark bundle. Without a second thought she dives off the deck of the ferry into the frigid water to try and find what she was almost certain was a child.

This book held my interest from the first paragraph. There was not one page that made me want to stop reading and skip ahead to “get back to the story”. No wasted words. No ongoing pages of floral descriptions. The writing was conversational, easy to read and the story kept moving pleasurably. Learning to Swim is an apt title for this work because the plot certainly had the reader riding a wave that kept building throughout the book. Admittedly, I did suspect the ending before I finished the book, but not until the very last second before, with a whisper, it was revealed. Until that point the tension kept building.

On a more personal note, there were a few touches that made this a really enjoyable book for me. The chapters were a comfortable length, no 30 pages chapters, so if I had to put the book down (for silly things like sleep and work) I could comfortably read to the end of a chapter before stopping. Part of the book took place in Ottawa and Ms. Henry does include some iconic Canadian things like Tim Horton’s, The Great Canadian Bagel, etc. and that made the book fun for me as a reader.

I loved Troy Chance, with all her foibles, flaws, independence, intelligence, determination and compassion she was a wonderful character. This is a fantastic first book from Ms. Henry and I am looking forward to another, hopefully, soon.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
I have no idea why this book has so many good reviews. It thoroughly annoyed me. I will say that I "read" it as an audio book, so maybe part of my annoyance is with the narrator (who sounds way too stuffy and grandmotherly than the character is). But, beyond that, the writing itself was like nails on a chalkboard to me. Just atrocious. There are so many inane digressions. You should play a drinking game of taking a shot every time she detours to describe the food she's eating. Seriously, you will be drunk in 10 minutes. Do I really need to know that the character puts chunky peanut butter in her oatmeal? Do I need to hear about the "drippings" (gag) of her bean burger? JUST GET ON WITH IT. Even if you took out the unnecessary descriptions (seriously, the book would be 25 pages shorter without the food stuff alone), the story drags out SO SLOWLY. Again, maybe the narration was just too slow for me on the audio version, but I don't think that's solely to blame. I was literally rolling my eyes as I listened, thinking, "GET TO THE POINT." It didn't help that I had the "mystery" figured out about halfway through. I found the main character extremely unbelievable. It's all like a Twilight Zone episode. I would have respected this more if it turned out to actually BE a Twilight Zone episode. As it is, it's a dull, terribly unlikely and unexciting plot with some sappy, cliched romance thrown in. The main character says, describing the lame "twist" at the end, "This is like a scene from a bad detective novel." Um, yes, EXACTLY. I couldn't get into this at all. It was truly painful. ( )
  KimHooperWrites | Mar 11, 2015 |
Troy Chance saves a small boy who has been thrown off a VT ferry, and takes him home to solve the mystery ( )
  pennykaplan | Dec 9, 2014 |
This is a combination review for both of Sara J. Henry’s books featuring Troy Chance “Learning to Swim” and “A Cold and Lonely Place”. I am combining them because after reading the second book (Cold and Lonely) this weekend – I rushed to get the first book (Learning to Swim) and read both of them within about 48 hours. And even though I’d read them out of order (and the second book heavily references the first) – it didn’t matter. I was absolutely hooked by the author’s style and by her main character.

Troy Chance is an extremely interesting character. Much of the choices she’s made in her life regarding her job, how far she chooses to live away from her family and her relationship status seem to make her seem like somewhat of a loner. When she reflects upon these choices, it seems as if she thinks that to be the case as well. But at the core of her, the reader discovers, the problem is not that she doesn’t care about other people, it is that she cares too much. Troy is incredibly empathetic without being overly emotional. She connects with the people she meets and the people she encounters in these two books in a way that I found very compelling. She makes their lives, their problems her own – and has a very difficult time when it comes time to break away.

Several times in each book, Troy finds she has information that she can choose to give to a person whom it will greatly impact. She wrestles with the choices, and with the results. “Sometimes letting the truth out lets people heal, and sometimes it makes things worse. And you couldn’t really know which, until you did it, and sometimes only later.”

I almost couldn’t put these books down. Not only was I drawn to this interesting main character and to the plots of the books – author Sara J. Henry’s writing style just washed over me. Her prose is clean, uncluttered and yet is still descriptive enough to pull the reader into the places and events as if they were actually there.

These were well-written, interesting and at times suspenseful novels that I enjoyed a great deal. I’m hopeful I don’t have to wait too long for another Troy Chance book! ( )
  karieh | Nov 18, 2014 |
Can a ferry ride change the direction of your life? For Troy Chance, it did. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees something fall into the freezing water and has a feeling it is something she needs to rescue. She jumps in and swims toward the bundle, only to discover it is a little boy. Troy swims her hardest to get to shore to save his life; once they are safe, she decides to take the boy home. She is afraid to turn him over to the police because she doesn't want him to be in foster care, or worse, go back to someone who may have tried to kill him. She begins to find out details from the boy, and discovers he and his mother had been kidnapped, and he fears his mother is dead. Troy investigates further and learns who the boy's father is, and makes a decision: she loves this little boy, and she will do what is in her power to protect him. This story is so contrived, it is ridiculous. Too many pieces fall into place too easily, and there is really no climax. It just kind of goes along at the same pace, with not much happening. The opening scene with Troy jumping into freezing water to save something she isn't even sure is a person is too far-fetched; who does that? And it just keeps going in that vein from there. There was one twist at the end that surprised me, though had I been paying more attention, I probably would have noticed something was coming. If someone would have told me what had happened at the end of this book, I would have quit reading; as it is, I am not sure why I finished. I didn't like the characters, everything happened too easily, and everything (except the one twist) was easy to see coming. And, since I am all about titles, I guess this title is a metaphor since it didn't have much to do with the actual events in the story. Learning to Swim must mean the main character learning to deal with her life, but in the end, I am not sure she does. ( )
  litgirl29 | Nov 17, 2014 |
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Epigraph
"Swimming is a sport that is not natural to everyone."

--from a Learn to Swim blog
Dedication
To my dad, who taught me how to read, and made sure I always had plenty of books.
First words
If I'd blinked, I would have missed it.
Quotations
People don’t understand how completely children rely on the adults around them, how quickly they recognize that their survival depends on the person in control of them. And how vulnerable they are to whatever the kidnapper tells them.
We ate steaming oatmeal and French toast and sipped fresh-ground coffee, which was astoundingly better than the stuff I made with my paper-towel-drip method.
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Witnessing a small boy being thrown into the middle of Lake Champlain, Troy Chance rescues the child only to discover that he had been kidnapped and is at the center of a bizarre and violent plot.

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