Learning to Swim: A Novel

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Press: Crown; y First printing edition (February 22, 2011)
Publication Date:2011-2
Author Name:Henry, Sara J.


"If I'd blinked, I would have missed it. 
But I didn't, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water." When she witnesses a small child tumbling from a ferry into Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking.
Harrowing moments later, she bobs to the surface, pulling a terrified little boy with her.
As the ferry disappears into the distance, she begins a bone-chilling swim nearly a mile to shore towing a tiny passenger.
     Surprisingly, he speaks only French.
He'll acknowledge that his name is Paul; otherwise, he's resolutely mute.
     Troy assumes that Paul's frantic parents will be in touch with the police or the press.
But what follows is a shocking and deafening silence.
And Troy, a freelance writer, finds herself as fiercely determined to protect Paul as she is to find out what happened to him.  She'll need skill and courage to survive and protect her charge and herself.       Sara J.
Henry's powerful and compelling Learning to Swim will move and disturb readers right up to its shattering conclusion.


“A single woman dives headlong from a ferry into Lake Champlain to rescue a child, and then must figure out what to do with him. 
Compulsively readable, this is all about what we do for love.”  —Boston Globe “In Henry’s tense first novel, a young woman rescues a boy from the waters of Lake Champlain, only to see her unruffled life abruptly give way to an unfamiliar world of wealth, privilege and danger.
”  —The New York Times “From the opening page, Learning to Swim is a terrific debut.
This moving and insightful psychological thriller features the inspiring Troy Chance—an everywoman hero who women will admire and men will want to meet.
I can’t wait for her next adventure.” —Michael Robotham, bestselling author of Bleed for Me and The Wreckage  “Learning to Swim is a thriller of the most thrilling kind—a smart and crafty story with whiffs of Rebecca that insists from the first sentence that you sit down and not stand up again until you've read the last word.
Tell your loved ones to take care of themselves.” —Quinn Cummings, author of Notes from the Underwire “In her debut, the first in a projected series, Henry proves herself to be a smooth and compelling storyteller.
And her lead is highly appealing: an athletic, fiercely independent young woman who, like crime-fiction author Gillian Flynn’s feisty females, is capable of making delightfully acerbic observations.” —Booklist “Sara J.
Henry’s debut starts with a bang—or, more literally, a splash—and doesn’t let up until the final page.” —BookPage “Freelance writer Troy Chance, the protagonist of Henry's impressive first novel, impulsively, and literally, dives into trouble when she sees a youngster fall from a ferry boat on Lake Champlain.
Henry adroitly handles Troy’s exposure to new emotions as she reexamines her life and relationships.” —Publishers Weekly “A compelling plot, a pervading sense of foreboding, well-constructed characters.”  —Kirkus Reviews “Take a gulp of air before diving into Vermonter Sara J.
Henry’s new mystery, because you’re likely to hold your breath for the whole first chapter.” —Rutland Herald “This debut novel is a stunner.
This disturbing, moving, compelling book will keep readers engaged until the very last page.
It is smart, intense, and full of unexpected plot twists.”—Tucson Citizen “Part mystery thriller, part family tragedy, part tentative romance, it succeeds on all levels.”—Knoxville News Sentinel

About the Author

HENRY has been a columnist, soil scientist, book and magazine editor, Web designer, writing instructor, and bicycle mechanic.
Learning to Swim is her first novel.
She's a Tennessee native who now makes her home in southern Vermont.sarajhenry.com


Science Fiction & Fantasy,Gaming,Pathfinder,Mystery, Thriller & Suspense,Mystery,Women Sleuths,Thrillers & Suspense,Suspense

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Comment List (Total:17)

  •     This novel was okay, nothing I'd recommend to a friend. I found it a bit too unbelievable. For example - after she dives off the boat and swims to shore with the small boy she doesn't immediately go to the police. She offers what I found to be a slightly lame reason for not taking him to the police - because she doesn't want him to get put a foster home while the police investigate what happened. The reason she doesn't want to do this is because she worked with foster kids as a young woman and she hated seeing them being put into foster homes. I realize this might make her reluctant to do so, but it seems far fetched - who the hell would think that keeping a child who was nearly murdered is a good idea and that waiting to contact police is smart?Not only that but she's able to use her journalistic skills to get clues the police weren't able to find - seems a bit far fetched. When she gets close to the boy's father and discovers someone is tampering with his company it seems unbelievable - if his company is as successful as you're lead to believe (he lives in a mansion, has a live-in nanny/cook, drives a luxury car and wears Armani suits) then I think he would have employed an IT person at some point - instead it takes a woman of average computer skills to set up a backup system on his computer? Come on, that's not believable! Additionally, the main character seemed very flat except at certain times. She doesn't show emotion to her closest female friend yet she's so attached to the small boy after only a short period of time she's willing to change her life dramatically for him? Her exboyfriend makes an odd appearance in the book, one that seemed necessary only because the author couldn't find another way to tie together the book. And without ruining the climactic moment of the story, I found the last portion of the book - when it all comes together and the mystery is solved - to be, what else, slightly unbelievable.
  •     LEARNING TO SWIM may be the best debut novel I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them. It's written in effortless first person, and only moments into the first chapter I found myself thinking of myself AS the book's main character, even though her life and adventures are very different than mine.Tucked within this thriller are meditations on the nature of family, how bonding happens, the dangers of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable - things you will take with you, when you climb out of the swift-moving river that is LEARNING TO SWIM.Bring a towel.
  •     I heard about this book from Read it Forward and was lucky enough to win a signed copy in a blogger's giveaway."If I'd blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn't, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water."If those two sentences grab you like they did me, go out immediately and buy this book! It is well-written, captivating, and ultimately an overall satisfying read. I love the way the author, developed the protagonist, Troy Chance. Troy's comments about being single, sleeping with dogs, and preferring male roommates made her seem like someone I'd hang out with. As a mother myself, I totally understood her quick and deep devotion to the boy she saved and her observation that all of it "seemed to make sense at the time."I read this book in a little over 24 hours, in between working a full-time job and taking care of a four year old. Yes, it was that engrossing. In the world of TV episodes, this book could have ended at chapter 15, but knowing it was only halfway done, I could only wait for the other shoe to drop. On that note, I could totally see this book as a movie. (But would hate that because they always ruin books that way.) I've been talking about this book so much, that I already have three friends lined up to borrow it now that I've finished!
  •     Sometimes mysteries don't deliver on either character or plot. This does both! Great puzzle, interesting people I've never met in a book, before.
  •     *******SPOILER ALERT**************It was ok, but I was bored throughout. The characters with the exception of Paul were very flat.
  •     Keeps you turning pages!
  •     Very suspenseful! I thought there were too many loose ends in this book,but no! They all came together at the end.And I never saw it coming! Wow!
  •     The story is okay although the rescue is a little unbelievable. I was satisfied with the ending.
  •     I really enjoyed this story, so well told - - starting out with the herine noticing a bundle of clothes with a small face being dropped into a middle of a lake 0 ==- - and it...
  •     The good books are the books that give you the feels, inside and out. They keep you turning the pages, obsessively, determined to find out what happens next.This book is one of those books. I love that the character doesn't do the "expected" thing. That she cares, and is curious, and honest. I love learning about the little boy, his background, and realizing just how dysfunctional some people can be.I highly recommend this book.
  •     This was a stunningly original mystery, and extremely well written -- particularly for a first novel.
  •     This was a fantastic mystery, and most importantly, I did not predict the ending at all. Great characterization and well written.
  •     Great story - mystery, a little romance, some twists and turns.
  •     "If I'd blinked, I would have missed it." The opening sentence of the book in some ways summarizes one of the central themes of this book perfectly -- how, in the blink of an eye, your life can completely change. In this debut novel from Sara Henry, Troy Chance is a free spirit living unencumbered in Lake Placid, New York. On the ferry on her way to Burlington, VT she sees what looks like a child falling from the ferry crossing in the opposite direction. Acting on instinct, she dives into the water and rescues the child, a 6 year old named Paul. This kicks off a chain of bizarre events, when Troy realizes that Paul is a missing kidnapping victim from Montreal. Against her normal instincts to remain aloof and apart from emotional attachments, Troy becomes intensely involved in Paul's life in the aftermath of his reunion with his father, including actively investigating the kidnapping. Along the way, Troy is forced to acknowledge truths about her life, her emotional state and what she really needs in order to be happy and fulfilled.Some books defy categorization. This is one of them. It is both women's fiction and mystery/thriller, both emotionally moving and suspenseful. The complexity underlying what could have been a pretty straightforward mystery novel makes this a truly unique reading experience. I read this book in a single day -- it has that intangible "something" that keeps you turning the pages even when your eyes are drooping and the hour grows late. I was happily surprised by how much I liked it.
  •     On e again I start out loving a book and then the final few chapters make me regret ever starting it.
  •     Very muched enjoyed this book. And now on number 2. Love the way she writes.
  •     Guess I was expecting more. The plot was interesting but it got a little tedious but the ending was not what I was expecting.

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