The blink of an eye. That’s just how quickly freelance writer Troy Chance’s life irrevocably changes in Learning to Swim, the debut novel from Sara J. Henry.
While on the deck of a ferry bound for Vermont, Troy sees what she believes to be a small child fall from the deck of a ferry traveling in the opposite direction. Instinctively Troy dives in and swims to where she saw the object enter the water.
Several frantic dives under later Troy discovers it was indeed a child, a boy about six years old, and she’s shocked to discover a sweatshirt tied around him binding his arms to his body; clearly the boy was meant to drown.
No one from either ferry saw the events, so Troy has to make an arduous swim to shore with the boy in the ice cold water. Upon reaching shore she can’t shake the feeling that taking the boy to the police is the wrong thing to do, and the decision she makes to take him home with her instead sets in motion a chain of events that turns Troy’s comfortably low key life upside down.
Living for the most part with no close friends, only minimal contact with the majority of her family, and involved in a relationship that’s more friends than lovers, Troy is used to moving through the world with minimal attachments. Therefore the strength of the feelings awakened in her when she saves the boy overwhelms and takes her completely off guard. In fact, Troy finds herself obsessed with the mystery of who tossed the boy from the ferry, so much so that even after the boy is reunited with his father and the police are finally involved Troy refuses to stand down on her own investigation, despite the increasingly dire consequences of her continuing.
Author Sara J. Henry has adeptly interwoven a highly gripping kidnapping mystery with the fascinating character study of a woman forced by extreme circumstances to reevaluate everything she thought she knew to be true about herself. Henry’s relaxed, engaging writing style makes for a comfortable read, as if you were returning to the author well into a series instead of it being a debut novel. Similarly, Troy Chance is a familiar, genuinely likable character one can very easily picture actually knowing in real life; there’s no unbelievable heroine as expert marksman, fifth degree black belt, nerves of steel, looks of a supermodel all rolled into one going on here. Quite simply, Learning to Swim is a gem of a debut, and it’s nice to know another book featuring Troy is already in the works.