I read Jessica Keener’s Night Swim one year ago. The book arrived in the mail to my office and I was immediately intrigued by the cover and the story. I read the book in nearly one sitting – I could not put it down. At the time, I really wanted to write a review of the book, but life got hectic, as it tends to do, and I never got around to it. When I saw Jessica post recently on Facebook that she was celebrating her book’s 1-year anniversary with a 50-state Skype book-club blog tour, I realized that even though I read the book a year ago, so many things still stuck in my mind. And that made me think, wouldn’t that make a great blog post? To talk about a book one year later and specifically highlight the things that stayed with you. What higher compliment to pay an author than to be able to say: “I still remember…” Then I talked to Jessica about her experience of the past year and asked her some questions – Q&A is below after I record my thoughts about the book “one year later.”
So, this is what I still remember:
- Peter’s guitar, his chats with Sarah
- How a discreetly placed hand on the small of someone’s back at a party can mean so much, and be so striking an image
- Sarah’s mother who is not only described as sitting with a back as straight as a violin bow, but whose life and actions mimic the sound and sigh of the violin she can no longer play
- Sarah’s mother’s car approaching the intersection – the crash – I can still see that moment in my mind
- The house, which becomes a character in the novel – dark, heavy, sad, depressed in its own right
One year later I still remember these moments, and I suspect that if I remember them now, so vividly, I will likely remember them for many years to come.
I had the privilege of asking Jessica some questions about her novel and her experiences this past year.
One year later, what sticks out in your mind about this past year? What experiences have you had? What audiences have you spoken to? What moments stick out in your mind?
Overall, the experience of meeting and hearing from grateful readers has gone beyond my happiest imaginings. So many people from all over the country have expressed their love for Sarah’s story and struggles. What better gift for an author? As for audiences, I’ve traveled the east coast from Florida to Maine speaking and reading at writers’ conferences, book festivals, independent bookstores, the Center for Fiction in NYC, eateries, book clubs, libraries and via Skype. Skyping is my newest love as it allows me to travel and speak to folks in California, Alabama, Georgia and other distant states—even countries—without leaving home. To celebrate Night Swim’s 1-year anniversary, I’ve initiated a “Skype 50 Book Clubs” this year.
What are your favorite scenes from the novel? Which ones do you think about the most often?
Oh, this is a tough question. I care about them all. I had fun writing the fish tank scene and the night swim scene with Anthony. The party scene and dinner scenes with Elliot and Robert are also favorites. I’d list others, but I don’t want to give too much away.
You’ve mentioned in some places that you started out as a poet. I find that often my favorite novelists were poets first. Do you still write poetry?
Poetry was my first love. I’m a great admirer of it and I love to read it. Throughout the years, it’s held a place of high honor—a vital means of making sense of life, and a beautiful way to honor the magic of words. Though I haven’t spent time writing poems for many years, I labor over my sentences. I suppose that’s my way of keeping poetry present in my work.
What’s next? I’ve seen you mention a novel set in Hungary? How is that coming along?
I’m working on a novel that takes place in Budapest in the mid-1990’s and involves American expats– an elderly Jewish man who has come to Budapest in search of the truth about his daughter’s death; and a young, American couple who try to help him. It’s a story in which one’s moral limits of right and wrong are tested.
Night Swim is a novel worth reading. It is also a novel that will stick with you long after you’ve put the book down. Trust me. I know.
You can find Night Swim here