Saturday, April 01, 2023

#BookReview: Swimming with Ghosts by @michellebrafman @TurnerPub

Synopsis: It's June 2012 at the magical and slightly cultish River Run swim club when a perfect storm brews between team moms and best friends, Gillian Cloud and Kristy Weinstein. The ghost of family addiction has turned up, looming over their carefully planned pasta parties, tie-dye nights, and pep rallies, forcing them to face their unresolved childhood trauma. Gillian responds by trying to control everyone around her, and Kristy relapses into her dangerous addiction to love. Real sparks fly the night the derecho--a freak land hurricane--sweeps through Northern Virginia, knocking out power for days. The storm sets fire to a tinder box of secrets, leaving Gillian and Kristy alone in the hot dark, their only company their shame. In the vein of Little Fires Everywhere, the characters in Swimming with Ghosts discover that sometimes ashes make the best fertilizer for planting new fields and that they have the power to dodge the history they fear they are doomed to repeat. At times satirical, this book club novel captures the ethos and the ruin of any children's competitive sport or activity where parents work out their demons and in turn lose their way.

This title will be released on June 13, 2023.


Rating: 4 Stars
My Review: Great characters and a very interesting plot all tied together in the world of competitive swimming.  This tells you about this sport without losing the main plot of the story which was pretty refreshing.  I liked learning more and seeing these characters go through their lives.  With humor and jealousy this was a fun story to read. 


“I really enjoyed Swimming with Ghosts, for the excellent characters, unusual plot inside the world of local competitive swimming, the fine writing, and the frequent insights and humor. I raced right through it.” —Anne Lamott

“Who knows when a perfect life might be ripped out by the roots? It’s summer and as closest friendships go under and family secrets surface, a storm may be coming for Gillian Cloud and her picture-perfect swim club community. Michelle Brafman is such a sharp observer of suburban life and Gillian, and #bestie Kristy, are a deliciously written, female friendship. So compelling, I snuck out of bed at night to finish it. Dive in!” —Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and The Summer Before the War

Swimming with Ghosts dives into the world of children’s competitive swimming with sharp observations and an abundance of empathy. I was thrilled to spend time at the picture-perfect River Run swim club, caught in the swirl of family secrets and friendship. Moving perfectly between humor and darkness, Michelle Brafman delivers a delicious and compelling book about jealousy, addiction, and legacy.” —Jennifer Close, bestselling author of Girls in White Dresses and Marrying the Ketchups

Swimming with Ghosts is a story about ripple effects and the lies we tell ourselves in our most valiant, human, futile attempts to escape our own histories. This is my favorite kind of novel: a page-turner about love and secrets, honor and betrayal, and all the messiness of families and legacies.” —Lauren Fox, New York Times bestselling author of Send for Me

“I devoured Swimming with Ghosts in a single day, tearing through one unputdownable chapter to the next. A perfect book club pick, Brafman writes with loving sensitivity and humor about two close friends, their families, and the secrets that join them together.” —Bethany Ball, author of The Pessimists and What to Do About the Solomons

“Beneath the surface of Michelle Brafman’s propulsive Swimming with Ghosts, with its delightful humor and sharp observations of suburban mores, swirl dark undercurrents. Riptides that threaten two families lurk behind the luaus stalwart Gillian Cloud organizes at the community swimming club and her whitewashed Facebook posts. With open eyes and extraordinary compassion, Brafman tackles the shame of love addiction, illuminating its links to other addictions and what true recovery entails.” —Lisa Gornick, author of The Peacock Feast and Louisa Meets Bear

“Lurking beneath the seemingly mundane surface of swim clubs and pasta parties and petty squabbles are dark secrets. Best friends who have much to hide, marriages that are not what they seem. In this page-turner of a tale, Michelle Brafman leads the reader into the deeper waters of deception, loss, and self-destructive obsession. This is a story that creeps up on you and then holds fast. It will stay with me for a long time to come.” —Mary Morris, author of The Jazz Palace and Gateway to the Moon

“Swimmers and readers rejoice! Michelle Brafman’s Swimming with Ghosts is proof that the most important events in life happen at the pool. Fast-paced and frequently hilarious, we unsuspectingly float on the novel’s wry, quirky humor until we’re suddenly over deep water, gazing into the depths of our need for purpose, friendship, and love. Anyone heading to a pool or beach this summer should have a copy of Swimming with Ghosts in their swim bag.” —David McGlynn, author of A Door in the Ocean

“Michelle Brafman deftly peels back the layers of suburbia, revealing an unforgettable summer that’s part Peyton Place, part American Beauty, with a hint of David Lynch. As she knows, competitive youth sports is a world that drives some of the best over the edge. Yet it can also heal so many of us.” —Tim Wendel, author of Escape from Castro’s Club

About the Author

Michelle Brafman is the author of the novel Washing the Dead and Bertrand Court: Stories. She has received numerous honors for her fiction including a Special Mention in the XXIV Pushcart Prize Anthology. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of BooksSlateLitHubTablet, the Forward, and elsewhere. She teaches fiction writing in the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing Program and has spoken about her work and the creative process at more than 150 venues, including bookstores, classrooms, and book groups across the country. Learn more at

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