The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

Thoughts   The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson, Grand Central Publishing 2008, 308 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:    My IRL Book Club pick for March, suggested by KB.

FIRST SENTENCE:   Until the drowned girl came to Laurel’s bedroom, ghosts had never walked in Victorianna.

MOOD WHEN READING:    Right off the bat, I confess I was distracted.    I seemed to lose track of the setup on about page 3.    The protagonist, Laurel, was pregnant at 19 when she moved into the subdivision called Victorianna – a perfect little ‘burb gated neighborhood.    Laurel’s sister was not impressed.    Then suddenly, Laurel is a mom to a teenager and I was jolted by the jump.    And who was the ghost that visited Laurel as a kid that didn’t visit her in her ‘adult’ home?   and now there’s this drowned girl ghost dripping on her carpet?   I was lost – who?!

[WARNING:   Although I don’t think I give away any plot spoilers here, this is more like a big rant than a review.   AND don’t think I hated the book.  By the end, I didn’t…]

How did she come to live in this neighborhood again?     How did they find this place?      [oh, sorry – NOT IMPORTANT.]

WE INTERRUPT THIS POST to tell you that while I was reading this and not even on page 10, someone (I’m not mad at you!   I think it interesting!!   Keep that in mind!) tells me, “I don’t think you’re going to like this book.”


You see, I do seem to have a problem with these contemporary real-life real-times women stories.*    NO, it’s NOT a woman story – whatever that is.    I guess, like everything is normal.   (whatever that is.)  Can’t suspend my disbelief?   Can’t just ‘ROLL WITH IT’.     I need the odd – REALLY odd stuff or DIFFERENT.    I don’t mind ‘set in another country’ stories**  – OH, I don’t know WHAT it is.

AND YET!   This is a ghost story!   That’s ODD, right?

Nope, not enough.

So, I continue to read along and start nitpicking.    I want to yell at the author to give it up already.   Stop foreshadowing and delaying and making me want to guess and being annoyed when things are OBVIOUSLY trying to sway my imaginings of whodunit and whatsreallygoingon?

I mean – the guy on the lawn is a distraction gimmick, right?      HEAVY WARNING:   PLOT DEVICE.

and a third of the way through:     “It’s almost always people in a family who kill each other.   No one knows that better than you and me,” she added, and exited stage left.   (turn page, new chapter,  Care GROANS.)

I had to go back and turn down page 7 because I had to refer back to that darned drowned girl ghost again and again.       I turned down six pages in all and took zero notes so I don’t really recall WHAT triggered my wanting to note any passages…   But by golly!  I’m gonna do it here.

OH – realize that I don’t like to KNOW anything and didn’t even bother to read the back cover.   (which says this:    Laurel Gray Hawthorne hasn’t seen a ghost in the thirteen years she and her husband have lived in their beautiful gated community.  Then in the dog days of a Florida August, she wakes to find Molly, her daughter’s best friend, standing by her bed, who then leads her to her own small body floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne’s pool.   Laurel’s carefully constructed existence cracks, and the past seeps through…

Laurel and her sister, Thalia, grew up in what looked like a typical blue-collar home.  But the Grays have long been hiding a skeleton in their closet.  While Laurel built her “perfect” life, Thalia became an actress with a capital A, a woman who doesn’t fit in Laurel’s tidy world.   Now Molly can’t rest until someone learns her secrets.   Laurel turns to her sister, and together they begin a journey that will unearth their family’s history, the true state of Laurel’s marriage, and what really happened to…

So (dot dot dot)

I suppose I should have read this back cover before I started.   I think it would have made the first 10 pages make more sense.  But that’s really hard to say now, isn’t it.   Can’t go back and unlearn/re-experience a first impression.

Page 116 – I didn’t get the whole scene of Thalia’s husband not liking Laurel.   Just didn’t feel right to me.

Page 121 – I got tired of Thalia saying “really”, drawing out the E sound.       Maybe I didn’t get the whole Thalia not being impressed with Laurel’s husband, either.

Page 157 – “Molly Dufresne*** was not the only ghost in Laurel’s yard.”    (end of chapter, turn page, Care GROANS again.)

Page 175 – (I really am not sure why I turned down this page.    Perhaps all the times I’ve moved – I now live in my seventh house and would have been ECSTATIC to meet the neighbors especially if they came by to introduce themselves to me and wouldn’t have had any of these silly self-conscious thoughts about them judging me – I mean YOU PICKED THIS ‘snooty’  NEIGHBORHOOD!!!  WHAT DID YOU EXPECT!?!??!?!    aarrrghh.)

Well, at least I think that’s what I was thinking when I read this scene.

But, I don’t have a sister, certainly not one as abrasive as Thalia, and I’ve never moved when I was pregnant**** – so maybe I should ease up on her a bit.

Page 244 – GOOD NEWS!  I liked this!!!

“I believe the universe, everything that exists, is made out of thousands of billions of infinitesimally small rubber bands.  The bands vibrate in a variety of ways, and those vibrations create matter and every kind of energy.”

Page _  (NO PAGE NUMBER) –  It truly bugged me that Laurel didn’t think to call Molly’s parents.    Are you kidding me!??!

Despite my anti-BooksLikeThisDespiteMyNotReallyUnderstandingWhy, I have decided to rate this THREE SLICES of PIE.     Because I really did *think* I had an idea of whodunnit but that changed by the end and so reluctantly I have to give it up to JJ for stringing me along even though I was annoyed through most of the book.

This concludes my ‘thoughts’.  The end.

3 of these:  

CHECK OUT THESE REVIEWS:    Kathy at BermudaOnion, Cheryl’s Book Nook, Blue Archipelago Reviews.   If I missed yours, let me know.


* Other books that could possibly be lumped into whatever category that this book might fall into:   Sarah’s Key /  Tatiana de Rosnay, The Virgin Blue / Tracy Chevalier, We Were the Mulvaneys / Joyce Carol Oates  (this one maybe not.), The Wednesday Sisters / Meg Waite Clayton, Firefly Lane and On Mystic Lake / Kristin Hannah, Talk Before Sleep / Elizabeth Berg, The Last Beach Bungalow and The Only True Genius in the Family / Jennie Nash (I♥JN), One True Theory of Love / Laura Fitzgerald,  The Pilot’s Wife / Anita Shreve.     I’ll STOP now and do not assume I didn’t like all of these.  I gave a few FOUR stars, really I did.   But if you were to evaluate my two star books, many of them have women approaching or are at middle age who are evaluating some situation in their life and – maybe TOO CLOSE TO HOME?     I just don’t know.

**  Can anyone recommend a novel featuring a female protagonist of age 35-50 years old experiencing life crisis that is not set in US?      Just curious, can’t think of any I’ve read…

*** Does anyone else instantly think of Andy Dufresne from King’s Shawshank Redemption?    that’s what I think of when I hear Dufresne…

****  disclaimer – I’ve never moved when pregnant because I’ve never been pregnant.


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20 thoughts on “The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

  1. KB



    I have to admit, this was on the Buy 1, Get 1 50% Table. I liked the cover. I hadn’t read it before now so I threw it into The Bookies bag. So……….

    I have to be honest that I wouldn’t have chosen this for us, but majority ruled. And I have to be even more honest that I wanted to shake the book and yell “GET ON WITH IT!”

    Ha! Should be an interesting meeting, huh? I think we all had the same reaction: Amateurish writing, but a great twist at the end, so it didn’t suck. Does that make sense?

  2. Poor Care! Yes, I always think of Andy Dufresne when I see that name, too.’ve read this so I don’t have to. Been trying to return the favor lately.

    Sedalia news…LeMaire’s is changing location. They are moving in on 50 hwy where the Hush Puppies outlet used to be.

    1. Are you in MO right now? Now you’ve got me craving some cajun food! Mmmmmm. I have such fond memories of Lemaire’s… I hope they don’t class up the joint.

  3. You crack me up. This is my least favorite of her books, too.

    There’s got to be some Canadian authors that write about female protagonists w/ life crisis. The Disappeared, if you replace life crisis with genocide. Maybe Crow Lake?

  4. You asked about woman mid-life life crisis outside the US….one of the books I’m considering taking with me on spring break (and I can’t take them all!!) “Emotional Geology” seems to be a book like that; set in the UK. Let’s see if I take that one with me on spring break or not 😉 !

  5. I loved this book, so I’m so sad you didn’t enjoy it, but I think I didn’t get too hung up on things like structure and plot but rather the questions and ideas the book posed about poverty. I remember I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a long time after I read it.

    I’ll have to think about the books not set in US with protag 35-50 and get back to you. I can never think of things on the spot.

    1. Oh, don’t be sad that I may didn’t quite love it – help me understand what bothers me instead! 🙂 Actually, I have a theory – ready? Since I really hate and try not to gossip… I think that novels allow me to be hyper-critical and nitpicky and negative since they aren’t REAL. Since, I try never to think badly about others (who annoy me or I don’t agree with – nonreal people in stories, I can tear about and ‘gossip’ about. This really doesn’t make me such a nice person, does it. ? Do I make sense or am I adding to the argument that I can be really shallow? sigh…

  6. This book has been sitting on my shelf for awhile and I just haven’t been in the mood to read it.

    I’m like you in the respect that books aren’t real so it’s okay to complain about the characters, etc. Sometimes they just make me so mad. LOL


    1. Oh, I thought you were searching for ME! ha. I have been a bit lowkey of late.

      Best to you and your organization for making a positive difference in the lives of those less fortumate.

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