Title: Swim Back to Me
Author: Ann Packer
Enjoyment Rating: 7/10
Referral: Browsing the Audible website
I really liked Ann Packer's The Dive from Clausen's Pier, and liked her other novel (the name of which is escaping me at the moment) pretty well too. So I ordered the audiobook of Swim Back to Me on the basis of her two previous novels, without reading anything about this one. So the first "chapter" of the book threw me a little bit. Packer delves into the story of Richard and Sasha, two middle schoolers living in Palo Alto who cope with their loneliness and unhappy families by hanging out with each other and smoking dope. It felt like Packer was doing a lot of exploring these two characters, but not a lot of developing a story. One morning during my run, I pulled off my headphones and did a search on the book and discovered that I wasn't listening to a novel at all-- rather this was a group of short stories. Aha! It all made perfect sense now.
In general, I think that the short story format allows a little more experimentation, a little more delving into character without a story arc, and Packer is playing with those conventions. Once I realized I was listening to stories, I really liked them. I particularly liked the story about the husband who does a runner and how his kids and his new wife react to the situation. I also liked that Northern California was a constant in the stories (and two of them dealt with Sasha, only she's in her fifties in the second one, and not nearly as messed up as we might have predicted from the first). I'm glad I read the collection, and glad that I didn't know I'd be reading short stories when I started the book, because I generally don't read a lot of them. All in all, a satisfying read, and it felt like an interesting departure from Packer's other books.