Swimmers Chloe Lane Gallic Books, €18.15
hloe lane’s first novel, swimmers, started life as a short story, but turned into a novel. It follows 26-year-old budding artist Erin Moore over a long weekend in Northland, New Zealand.
She’s on her way to a family reunion at their country home. Her aunt, who brings Erin home, blurts out that Erin’s mother, Helen, who has motor neuron disease, has planned her own suicide. Very soon. In fact, she plans to be out of her misery the following Tuesday.
Erin is understandably upset by this revelation, especially since her mother confided in her sister, Aunt Wynn, with whom she has a strained relationship, instead of talking to Erin.
Her mother’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she now requires tube feeding and is unable to speak. The only way she can communicate is through a thumbs-up (or middle finger) or iPad messages, “pricking every letter.”
Erin, already a little messy after a recent breakup with her married boyfriend, is caught adrift by this shocking news, though she quickly accepts her mother’s decision, determined to help her carry out her last wishes.
But Erin also makes questionable personal choices, which could potentially land her in trouble, and the ensuing chaos highlights the strain a terminal illness can put on a family.
All of the Moore women are swimmers, and you gradually see the parallels between the rigors of their chosen sport and the isolation and determination needed to deal with a terrible disease.
The characters in this deceptively simple tale are well drawn, and family relationships are explored through memories of the past and reactions to the current crisis. Erin is a bit of a loose cannon; reckless, selfish and not always sympathetic.
But that makes the novel all the more realistic. Instead of seizing the opportunity, Erin crumbles before she can find the courage to accept the inevitable.
swimmers begs the question: what would any of us do in a similar situation? Despite its serious theme, there are some fun moments – witty conversations between the two sisters, quirky exchanges between mother and daughter, and a local scandal.
Entertaining interludes in a novel with a deep dilemma at its heart.