Wow. No one was likable in this one except one character (Nan). Maybe you can read a book about fairly unpleasant people, but I tend to not be able to especially when the writing isn’t that great either. The ending was a laugh too. I think Fuller wants to have a sense of mystery about Ingrid Coleman, but if we are supposed to believe what Fuller is hinting at, she’s probably the worst of the Coleman’s.
“Swimming Lessons” is about the Coleman family. About 11 years ago, the family matriarch (Ingrid) either ran away or died while going off to swim. Since that has happened, the Coleman’s have barely been able to put themselves back together. Her husband Gil has an accident one day when he believes he sees Ingrid. This causes his youngest daughter Flora to return home to help her sister Nan in caring for their father. This causes many things below the surface to erupt regarding Gil and how little he was there for either of his daughters.
Gil is supposedly a well known writer (he wrote one freaking book) and a professor. It quickly comes out that Gil is not what he seems via Ingrid’s letters. I found myself bored though reading Ingrid’s POV about Gil. I don’t know why we were not imparted with his character either via Nan or someone else.
Flora is selfish. She’s in a whatevership with a guy named Richard who I also found aggravating. It seems as if Flora is going to repeat a bad pattern with being with someone she’s at best ambivalent about, and at worst is indifferent towards.
Nan is only 26 or so and had to step up to take care of everyone around her. I felt so sad for this character especially after reading what Ingrid was afraid to come to pass with her daughters.
Gil needed to be more to me. He didn’t sound impressive at all. You are supposed to feel some sympathy towards Ingrid for being pulled into this great man’s orbit. However, I just didn’t get that sense. Maybe because when we see him, he’s obviously broken by the loss of his wife. Gil and Ingrid reminded me superficially of the movie “One True Thing” with Meryl Streep. Here was supposedly another woman trapped by the supposed genius of her husband with a daughter that did not see her mother clearly. I pretty much wanted to go and rewatch that movie and put this book down.
Fuller decides to tell the story from Ingrid’s POV (she leaves letters for Gil in their books in her home for him to find) and we jump back to the present following Flora and her aggravating butt. The book doesn’t hang together well at all. Maybe if we had one of the girl’s finding and reading the letters it would have improved the flow. Instead it just felt like the letters were filler. I was more interested in the fact that apparently Ingrid in her letter’s wrote the name of the book that she was placing the letter in, which makes zero sense. The idea was her husband would find the letters and obviously know what book it was placed in. I assume that was for the reader’s sake.
The setting of this falling down house by the water is just sad. You can see the house and its contents are from another age. Flora is resistant to let go of the past and Nan just wants to move on.
The ending was a mess. You are left with leaning towards one about what became of Ingrid, and it just made me annoyed.