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Night Swimming    by Robin Schwarz order for
Night Swimming
by Robin Schwarz
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)

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*   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Night Swimming was confusing to me - not in the sense that it is hard to follow, but simply because it is not clear what the book is trying to impart. Is it chick lit? Is it women's literature combined with a coming of age story? Is it a romantic mystery? These questions were swimming through my head (no pun intended) as I made my way through the book. After finishing, I still do not have the answer. If pressed, I would classify this as a chick lit book, albeit not one of my favorites.

Charlotte Clapp is a life-long resident of the small town of Gorham, New Hampshire. Life in Gorham is not exciting, and an imaginary cloud settled over Charlotte after her mother's death from cancer. Understandably, Charlotte was depressed, and mourned the loss of her mother. She buried her feelings by eating. At the onset of the novel, Charlotte is overweight, unhappy, loveless, and almost estranged from her childhood friend, Mary Ann. After many years there, her work at the bank is routine, and she despises her boss, Kelly. It seems there just is not a lot to look forward to in Charlotte's life. Then, it gets worse. A routine visit to her doctor morphs into a follow-up appointment, when Charlotte receives shocking news: she has cancer, and she has one year to live. Strangely, no follow up tests are done, no treatment is attempted and Charlotte does not seek a second opinion. She calmly accepts her fate and starts scheming as to how she can 'live it up' the last year of her life. She decides to rob the bank that employs her, and secretly relocate to Los Angeles to 'live out her dreams' - which include finding love and meeting Tom Selleck.

Charlotte steals two million dollars from the bank. She ditches her car, buys a used Jaguar on the sly, and heads cross country. Reading the obituary of a woman named Blossom McBeal, Charlotte is so enamored by it that she drives to Louisiana to attend the wake (with two millions dollars in the trunk of her Jaguar). Charlotte then assumes Blossom's identity and continues to LA, where she spends the first million on a home, which she pays for in ten and twenty dollar bills (this is one of the over the top scenes in the book that raised my eyebrows). In LA, Charlotte (now Blossom) is attracted to Skip, her pool maintenance man. Her days are filled with admiring Skip, and making small talk with him. Each night, Blossom swims in the pool. She starts to lose weight and blossoms, if you will, into a thinner, more confident woman. As friendship develops, the question becomes whether Blossom will reveal her true circumstances to Skip, who is actually a Harvard-graduate-entertainment-lawyer-turned-pool-boy. Little does she know (she would if she stopped to think), that the Gorham police are investigating the bank robbery and suspect a link to Charlotte's disappearance.

I found the story progressively more implausible. Charlotte is either extremely dim-witted, or the reader must take huge leaps of imagination to swallow the novel's antics. While I did not especially enjoy it, I can easily picture Night Swimming on the silver screen where reality and factual details are easily glossed over in romantic comedies.

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