Ingrid Coleman has no shortage of reflections about her less-than-ideal marriage to Gil, her former professor. Gil’s affairs, his distance from his family, his general insensitivities–all of these, Ingrid tolerates. Throughout their married life, she keeps her dissatisfactions to herself, and her silence may very well have been misunderstood by Gil as ignorance or complacence. Then, one day, she disappears. Before disappearing, she writes out the history of their marriage in a series of letters to Gil, which she hides inside his many old books. The reasons for her disappearance are not a mystery. Whether she’s alive or dead, however, is a question that haunts Gil and his daughters Flora and Nan for the rest of their lives.
Fuller switches her narrative between Ingrid’s letters and the present day, twelve years after her disappearance, when an aging Gil believes he spots Ingrid on the street below his bookshop. Flora and Nan must tend to Gil as his health rapidly fails and must decide for themselves whether to believe that Gil actually saw their mother. Written in lush, evocative prose, Swimming Lessons explores questions of guilt, redemption, family loyalty, and freedom in a way that offers little forgiveness for the sins committed and the secrets kept.
Tin House Books