Swimming Between Worlds by Elaine Neil Orr
Berkley Book, 2018. Trade paperback, 400 pages.
This novel advertises itself as a coming of age novel set during the American Civil Rights movement. Publicity also claims that is it a story where three people of different backgrounds lives collide in the town of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. First, readers meet Tacker who is sent home in disgrace after working abroad in Africa. This changes his perceptions from those he grew up with in the South as he returned more open-minded. He also longs for the friends he left an ocean away. Kate is a recent college graduate who is still mourning her parent’s deaths and makes a discovery that alters her perceptions. Both Tacker and Kate are white. Intersecting with their lives is Gaines, a young college-educated African-American man near their age.
The majority of the story tells Tacker and Kate’s story, both as they deal with their respective issues and as they come together. Gaines story feels more like a sideshow when it should predominate. As a whole, the novel delves deeply into Tacker and Kate’s thoughts while Gaines is shown through their eyes. Readers do not get to see events from his viewpoint. Given the era, this is a glaring oversight. Orr’s writing is detailed to the extreme, so the story often feels like it is dragging, so readers beware. I normally try to finish all books I review, but I gave up after approximately 180 pages because of these aforementioned issues. Still, others may enjoy it.
Do you think you will read this novel? Do you have a better novel set amidst the Civil Rights Movement to suggest?
This review is based on an advance digital copy provided by the First to Read Program.