The Swimmers

Knopf. Feb. 2022. 192p. ISBN 9780593321331. $23. F
Distinguished best-selling novelist Otsuka’s (Buddha in the Attic) latest is an introspective work that examines life’s journeys from a multitude of perspectives. Using second- and third-person narrative, the novel opens with a look at the regular visitors to a local public swimming pool and their day-to-day habits and accomplishments, with brief mention of their names and occupations. The story then shifts from the swimmers to the discovery of a crack in the pool, its effects on the swimmers, and the pool’s eventual closure. The final chapters focus on Alice, a retired lab technician with dementia, briefly mentioned in the novel’s opening, whose condition has worsened to the point that she now lives in a long-term care residence. Otsuka’s spare, dreamlike writing offers readers a deeply touching exploration of the impact on Alice’s Japanese American family (particularly her daughter) of caring for a loved one with dementia.
VERDICT Otsuka is noteworthy for her skilled storytelling and her ability to immerse readers in her characters’ emotional journeys. Essential reading for those already familiar with Otsuka’s work; those who haven’t read her are likely to be duly impressed.
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