Delores Walker was two years old when her mother dropped her into the shallow end of a lake. “From then on, the water was where Delores felt most at home.” Twelve years later, Delores’s parents take her to Florida to the popular roadside attraction of Weeki Wachee, where Delores watches mermaids swimming. It is here that Delores realizes her dream to become a mermaid at Weeki Wachee.
When she is old enough, she takes some of the silver dollars left by her runaway dad and leaves home, her mother Gail, and her brother Westie to pursue her dreams. Delores learns life’s lessons with the guidance and help of her other mermaid and merman friends, and Weeki Wachee’s rough-edged but smart businesswoman, Thelma Foote, who manages Delores’s fast-developing career as a mermaid/reporter.
Gail Walker knows she should be proud of Delores, who has followed her dreams, but finds herself resentful and bitter of her daughter’s determination, freedom and accomplishments. Slowly, Gail discovers a life of her own and embarks on her own journey of growth and self-discovery, appeasing her maternal instincts by helping Avalon, a young woman who works in the office that Gail cleans.
When circus owner Mr. Hanratty hears about Weeki Wachi and decides to merge the two attractions, we discover Roy Walker, Delores’s father and find out what happened that fateful night when Delores’s father left and who he has become in this new life.
When all three lives, which dance around one another throughout the story, finally intersect once again, we see how the self-reinvention of all the characters has brought fulfillment and peace to each character.
Swim to Me is a coming-of-age story, but also a story of opportunity and chances, opening doors and walking through doors that have been opened by fate, a story of transformation and re-invention.
Betsy Carter vividly describes the Florida landscape as well as the culture around the roadside attraction, visitors as well as the characters who live and work there. Carter’s characters are well-developed and lovable, their relationships and interaction very credible. The author effectively shows how resentment and bitterness fade as each character follows her or his heart and fulfills dreams and lives to their full potential. Swim to Me flows beautifully and makes an especially wonderful read for teenage daughters and their mothers.