Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

 My partner asked me yesterday if I planned on reading a book a day while on vacation this week. While I would love to, I told him I probably wouldn't be able to read quite that much--the lure (or my guilt feeling) of cleaning out closets and decluttering in preparation for the holidays has me feeling like I can't just read all day--I MUST do some kind of housework. Ugh. 

However, I did finish The Night Swim last night and did spend a lot of Monday reading it. It's not an easy read in that the subject is about rape. Not just one rape, but the story about two women, 25 years apart, who were raped. One ended up dead, and the other has divided the town with her accusation against the town star athlete. Both take place in the same small coastal town of Neapolis, North Carolina. 

Told mainly by Rachel, the host of a popular true crime podcast; and Hannah, the sister of the first victim, Jenny Stills, interspersed with podcast script episodes, it is a disturbing look at crimes against women and the price they pay whether they go public or keep silent. Jenny's story is painful to read, and is the backbone of the novel. Twenty-five years before, she was found drowned in the ocean. Hannah, ten at the time, was traumatized by the event, and soon after lost her mother to cancer. She was adopted and left town. Now she's back, and wants justice for Jenny, whom Hannah claims was murdered. Rachel, in Neapolis to cover the rape trial of golden boy Scott Blair, accused by Kelly Moore, at first is reluctant to even think about Jenny's story. Hannah keeps leaving notes for Rachel, telling her the story of Jenny, and what happened to her that long ago summer. That story is slowly spun throughout the contemporary story of the rape trial of Scott Blair. Both similar, yet very different. Both horrible acts against women who were helpless to protect themselves or fight back. Both vilified by the people around town. 

The question throughout Jenny's story is who was the ringleader that summer, and why was her death never investigated? Why do so many of the townsfolk of Neapolis still, all these years later, treat Jenny's memory so badly? And, is the murderer of Jenny still there? 

I didn't think of this as a thriller but more as a evolving story that didn't hold a whole lot of surprises. However, it was compelling, and I couldn't stop reading-even through the awful experiences of Jenny. You never get her perspective, and maybe that's on purpose-we only see what happens to her through Hannah's eyes. Kelly's story is, unfortunately, fodder for social media, gossip, and endless stories in the press. It's all about what Scott is losing because of this accusation, not whether he's guilty or not. Kelly's suffering is moot. 

Rachel's podcast certainly makes space for a series that could involve other cases she explores each season, so I wouldn't be surprised to see another novel in the future. 

Rating: 4/6 for a haunting, chilling dual tale of two young women who are raped and left to deal with the fallout. One ends up dead-was it murder, or simply an accident? This novel could be difficult to read for those who have experienced sexual assault or rape, so be aware of that before you pick it up. 

Available in hardcover, audio, and ebook. 

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