The Swimming Pool
Holly LeCraw
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Buy *The Swimming Pool* by Holly LeCraw online

The Swimming Pool
Holly LeCraw
320 pages
April 2011
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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LeCraw’s sensational family melodrama is as steamy and as erotic as the humid summer days during which much of the action takes place. Like the cool, clear waters of a deep dark pool, the petty frustrations and unbridled passions of her characters silently ripple outward in a languid plot centering upon an unsolved murder and a tempestuous affair, unexpectedly ignited by the memories of a distant past.

Marcella Atkinson discovers that “the murk of her life” which she thought settled to the bottom is stirred up again when she gets a phone call from her ex-husband, Anthony, with the news that their daughter, Toni, has gotten a baby-sitting job with the McClatchey family at Cape Cod. Marcella hasn’t really kept in touch with anyone from the Cape for awhile, especially since she ran blindly to Connecticut after her divorce. She hadn’t even known that Callie, Cecil McClatchey’s daughter, was married and has two children, Jamie and little Grace.

Anthony’s call ignites in Marcella some powerful thoughts of her beloved Toni at Cecil’s house, along with the all-too familiar silence of an ex-husband who - after seven years - can’t even mention Cecil’s name. Regardless of the years that have passed, neither Marcella nor Anthony have forgotten Marcella’s affair with Cecil and the accompanying fallout from the unsolved murder of Cecil’s wife, Betsy.

While Cecil was considered a prime suspect, Marcella finds a measure of comfort in her memories of the affair and of a love embroidered with hopes and memories long after Cecil’s death. Jed, Cecil’s handsome son on hiatus from his job in the city, is barely aware of Marcella and Anthony’s anguished reality and their mysterious connection to his father, or of Marcella’s secret heartache: the series of terrible miscarriages that took place after she had Toni.

Staying with Callie and the kids, Jed has far more on his mind than he would ever care to admit, especially after he discovers a woman’s bathing suit folded in the cramped upstairs closet of their Mashantum family house. Jed knows that the bathing suit shouldn't be there in his parents' home, but the discovery acts as a catalyst, dredging up the past and encouraging the ghost of an old desire to swirl again.

Almost at once, LeCraw’s characters are swimming toward the surface, their private longings, secret passions and yearnings framed against a backdrop of a long, hot Massachusetts summer and the murderous events that took place in Atlanta. Surprisingly, Jed faces the most trials: plagued by self-doubts, thrown into ill humor and confusion, Jed’s patterns of idle thoughts are irrevocably changed when he suddenly turns up at Marcella’s house, thudding up the wooden steps and asking for answers.

Handsome, serious and dark, Jed perpetuates “the ghost of memory,” making Marcella feel something electric and strange - a shadow of her passion for Cecil as his dark eyes inexplicably bore into her, right down into all the family secrets. In gorgeous, fluid prose, LeCraw slowly unfolds this melancholy tale of suffering and angst, of a mirage-like passion that appears intemperately and is then betrayed. The imagery of the pool is ever-present, the undisturbed surface looking almost solid, a powerful symbol for these people as they seem to drown in their memories, forever swayed by the raw desire they can barely manage to swallow.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2010

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