Swimming Upstream by Ruth Mancini
Ever had one of those times in your life when you feel like nothing is going right? Like no matter where you turn, the universe only kicks you down – sometimes before you’ve even gotten all the way back up again from the last time? Well, I certainly have, and I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s a universal experience that at least once in a lifetime your whole world gets turned upside down and shaken around until you don’t know which way is up anymore. And I also think it’s pretty safe to say that these experiences can also be some of the most character building ones you’ll ever face.
In her debut novel Ruth Mancini has crafted an excellent portrayal of exactly this time in life, through the eyes of Lizzie, a young woman who appears to be on the verge of having everything she ever wanted – until a twist of fate finds her stepping in front of an oncoming car, and suddenly, everything changes. Swimming Upstream is a poignant tale of one woman’s story of being torn down and the process of rebuilding.
One of the best things about this book is the fact that it’s so relate-able. And not just because it centers around those “everyone’s been there” experiences, either (although that fact doesn’t hurt). Mancini’s writing style is open and refreshing, creating a voice that stands out among the crowd like a breath of fresh air, and draws you in. She writes with a sense of familiarity and the characters and settings she describes seem like people and places we could easily already be acquainted with. Lizzie and her friends are, in fact, no different than many of the people you knew – or could have known – in college.
My only hesitation – and I’ve said this before about other books – is that once again it felt like the ending was a little rushed. I was hoping for something that really showed Lizzie’s growth and change as she brought herself out of this negative space, and although it was all tied up neatly and explained in the end, it seemed a bit too succinct and simplistic for how in depth the rest of the book felt.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that on the whole, Swimming Upstream was quite an enjoyable read that sucked me in and made me take a step back and think about life, and why it works the way it does. A serious, more adult version of “Bridget Jones,” but just as enjoyable, I would definitely recommend this book to just about anyone who’s interested in realistic fiction or who is going through a hard time (personally, I could really have used this book 2-3 years ago as the train wreck that was my last relationship slowly smoldered on the tracks before blowing up completely). It’s a heartbreaking and humorous story that will make you think, and maybe even reassess some of those trials that have been thrown at you in your own life!
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