Playing out the various scenarios is almost like a choose your own adventure story for mature adults.
Why I love it
I imagine that Chick Lit and RomComs are popular genres because they depict the idealized versions of how people think romance should be. We watch them for whatever the opposite of catharsis is '“ it’s all about the look, right there on the surface. Then there are the thrillers and dramas that we read for catharsis and... instruction, maybe? Like, it’s a bit of an emotional purge, but also more of an instruction manual for avoiding what you don’t want in a relationship. Swimming Lessons is the latter.
Reading this drama was a helpful reminder of what I don’t want in my relationship. Ingrid, our protagonist, is losing herself as she is swept away in romance with a charismatic man. Her husband, a famous and well-respected author, has most of the agency in this relationship, and an unplanned pregnancy steers Ingrid off course from her life goals. And then, of course, there is Ingrid’s disappearance under mysterious circumstances that may or may not be related to her thwarted ambitions. So, you know, life lessons and intrigue.
Ingrid’s life story reads like a cautionary tale for my own life. My handsome husband is on a plane back to the U.S. from a work conference, I’m seven months pregnant, and we impulsively bought a puppy two weeks ago (insert joke about nesting). I don’t want to lose myself '“ my passion for reading, my career '“ as family obligations grow all around me (literally). And that’s why Swimming Lessons struck a chord for me: ultimately it’s about a couple whose individual ambitions complicate their relationship in ways that are both relatable and devastating.
Ingrid ultimately gets control over her destiny, and although it’s complicated, it’s a big part of the joy of reading this book. Through salacious letters scattered throughout the book, Ingrid finds a way to tell her story. As I read, I found myself asking whether Ingrid is getting closer to what she wants or moving further away. The reader is asked to play a large role in deciphering whether or not Ingrid is dead, or if she simply left and started over. Playing out the various scenarios is almost like a 'œchoose your own adventure' story for adults. For me, Ingrid’s story, voice, and perspective, makes for a haunting, motivating, and fantastic read.