Book Review: ‘Swimming for Sunlight’ by Allie Larkin

Swimming for Sunlight

Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Received from publisher via Netgalley

“Swimming for Sunlight” by Allie Larkin is about a young divorcee trying to overcome trauma as she returns home to live with her grandmother. She begins helping her grandmother and friends become the entertainment mermaids they used to be decades before. It’s heartwarming yet slow without the pizzazz in telling everyday situations and depicting everyday characters.

Katie returns home to Florida after a tumultuous divorce that ended with her ex-husband shacking up with the younger woman he had an affair with. So Katie is out of sorts bringing her dog Bark, also suffering from anxiety, along with her as she’s still reeling from the effects of a marriage that resulted in two post-IVF miscarriages. And she never got over her father’s unexpected death on the water when she was a kid and her mother’s subsequent abandonment.

When she gets to her grandmother Nan’s home, she’s welcomed back into the senior community she was raised in. Nan has changed with adapting a vegan diet while some of her friends have passed who had a hand in raising Katie like her aunt Bitsie’s wife Bunny who had taught Katie to sew. The ladies talk one night about their days performing as mermaids in circus shows. They want to replicate those days, so to get her mind off things, Katie takes up the cause with searching on Facebook for their old friends who were also mermaids and volunteering to sew the mermaid costumes. While searching on Facebook, Katie sees the other guy she had fallen in love with in college before her ex-husband and sends a message. Eventually, Luca arrives in Florida to shoot a documentary on the mermaid project. Katie’s best friend Mo tries to get her out of the house more and spark another romance with Luca. In the end, Katie overcomes her fear and anxiety as if she is a mermaid.

The story again moves slow without much excitement; the events are ordinary, the characters are ordinary. The mermaid project itself is the steps of putting it together, which doesn’t seem exciting like they’re cruising Facebook, going to each other’s homes, sewing, etc. and the tension isn’t strong enough to come off as interesting. In simpler terms, it gets boring, but the reader can empathize with Katie, who struggles with coming to terms with her past like getting over her father’s death and walking away from Luca. Character development is fine. The backstories are there with Katie’s father dying and mother leaving her with Nan; Mo also being raised by her grandparents; and Luca, whose mother was deported, or maybe these are all coincidental. Overall, the story and characters have potential but need more energy so the reader’s eyes won’t glaze over.

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