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Publisher's Summary

NATIONAL BEST SELLER • From the best-selling, award-winning author of The Buddha in the Attic and When the Emperor Was Divine comes a novel about what happens to a group of obsessed recreational swimmers when a crack appears at the bottom of their local pool. This searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters—and the sorrows of implacable loss—is the most commanding and unforgettable work yet from a modern master.

The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief.

One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice's estranged daughter, reentering her mother's life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline. 

©2022 Julie Otsuka (P)2022 Random House Audio

What listeners say about The Swimmers

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely loved it ...

Julie Otsuka is masterful ... highly recommend this ... thanks to Terry Gross for introducing Ms Otsuka to me

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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ugh!

The beginning started out with such promise. Then it was sideswiped by a completely different story that was dark and depressing.

1 person found this helpful

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Powerful Incessantly Engaging - This & Everyfamily

Remarkable storytelling, boldly tender .. every line while specific to this family was at same time a story of every daughter or son. .. .. I felt grateful to have been able to read / listen to this story...

I set the speed to .95x for a slightly lower tone.. but the narrator provided a sensitive and rich voice to this deeply brilliant book

1 person found this helpful

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Powerful story about loss to dementia

Well written, well narrated.

Lots of writerly techniques. Alliteration, repetition for emphasis.
Captured me from the beginning.

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  • HB
  • 05-29-22

Not for me at all.

I am a swimmer and thought it started out well. Totally related to the lap lane antics and mantras of the introverted black line lovers. But then it lost me. Got very repetitive and depressing. Would not recommend.

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Tedious

I regret having spent the time listening to this book. Too many tedious details that weren't all that relevant as the story progressed.

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Spot on accuracy on dementia, Extremely repetitious Doesn’t feel like reading a book

I powered my way through the book hoping that some thing would change or come about but sadly it did not and I found myself utterly depressed. That said, The author did a most excellent job perfectly describing the experiences and at the very least will strike the fear of getting old and being put into a nursing home in to you. Perhaps on the bright side it will encourage people to go visit their loved ones in nursing homes quite a bit more often. And also to remember that those in nursing homes continually need somebody to advocate for them and their needs. Having experienced it with my grandparents I know that to be a fact.
Although the author vividly with spot on accuracy describes how we react to situations as groups and then how dementia patients feel and are treated in caretaking facilities, you find yourself over and over wishing they would just move on. There really is not a story here worthy of a book. You get the gist of what they’re saying and then it’s just overly repetitive.

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A bit depressing

The first couple of chapters are entertaining, particularly if you are a swimmer. The second half of the book has nothing to do with the first part and I found to be rather depressing.

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  • CR
  • 04-17-22

First 1 third for swimmers, 2/3 for those interested in her personal exp with her mothers dementia

Skip it. If you’re a swimmer you’ll relate just briefly then it becomes lost in her dementia experience. As a longtime swimmer caring for my mother currently in dementia decline, this was story was extremely depressing and non- informative. It’s just author’s experience with losing her mother and the grief and sadness of watching your loved one slowly disappear and die. Teri Gross’ interview with Julie was interesting and the reason why I read this book. This author’s writing may be good in her other books-I’d pass on this one.

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Meaningful Experience

Otsuka captures not only the ritual of a detached yet bonded community but also the heart-wrenching regret and despair of losing a loved one to dementia. The steady rhythm of her backloaded declarative and highly evocative and detailed sentences lends a mesmerizing captivation. I devoted my afternoon to listening and felt a frequent twinge of recognition.