Reading Challenge: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson tells the story of Laurel Gray Hawthorne and how the death of a teenage girl changes her life. Laurel fits in nicely to her pretty suburban neighborhood, masking the ugly parts of her past and sheltering her daughter, Shelby, from the undesirable aspects of life in general until the ghost of Shelby's friend leads her to her body floating dead in the backyard pool. The circumstances surrounding the death of this young girl and how it connects to Laurel's disfunctional family forces her to address parts of her life that have long been burried.
I really liked this story in the end. It did take about half the book to pick up the pace though so if you've started it but got bored, stick it out because it will be worth it. I was disappointed that the book wasn't more supernaturally motivated. I feel like they introduced Laurel's unique ability to see ghosts to draw people in but she never fully uses the talent and it doesn't really lead the story. Laurel began seeing ghosts when her uncle died when she was a child (he was shot by her father on a hunting trip), he is the only ghost she's ever seen until Molly shows up in her bedroom on the night of Molly's death. Outside of these encounters the ghost business is pretty limited. Jackson tries to bring it back in to the storyline here and there pretty unsuccessfully. The story would have been very similar had Laurel never been able to see these dead people. For example, they could have explained the relationship between her and her uncle and she could have found the dead body without the aid of their ghostly figures.
The real heart of the story is Laurel and her relationships with each of the supporting characters, in particular her mother (called Mother in the book which really drove me crazy for some reason), her father, her daughter, her husband, her niece/cousin, and her sister (an all around horrible character). While the police rule Molly's death an accident, Laurel doesn't believe it and with the help of these people she investigates what really happened that night and in the process becomes a stronger person (and character).
It's a pretty mild mystery but I will say that I was surprised and saddened in the end. I like books that make you feel for and about the characters and Jackson did a good job of shaping each character and making me feel connected to them.
Good selection from my book club buddy Michelle!