Swim to Me
by Betsy Carter

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007. ISBN 978-1-56512-492-9.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 01/08/2008

Fiction: Mainstream

"She was two years old when her mother dropped her into the shallow end of a lake...Delores Walker always claimed she had a vivid memory of this incident...Her body moved with the flow of it, the most natural thing in the world. From then on, the water was where Delores felt most at home." Thus begins the story of Delores Walker, a young girl from New York who leaves home to follow a dream.

On a family vacation to Florida, Delores is introduced to the world of real live mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs. She knows right away that this is what she wants to do with her life. But the realities of her dysfunctional family make the realization of that dream seem impossible until the day Delores discovers a stash of gold coins left behind by her estranged father. Using some of the coins to fund her trip to Florida, Delores sets out to join the ranks of the Weeki Wachee mermaids.

Carter has crafted a cast of characters who are as charming as they are eccentric. What gives this book its "just can't put it down" appeal is the way in which Carter intersects the lives (both past and present) of the girls of Weeki Wachee, a newsroom manager from nearby Tampa, the dysfunctional family members from the Bronx, and Thelma Foote, who runs the Weeki Wachee Springs Mermaid attraction.

With careful attention to detail, Carter has incorporated some of the very real attractions and issues of central Florida during the 1970s. There are the rumbles of the economical impact of Walt Disney World on other nearby, smaller attractions. There is the strong desire to preserve the heritage of the area in such endeavors as the Mermaids of Weeki Wachee and the home base for circus acts, even a hurricane threatening the Tampa Bay area of the western gulf coast. Readers are treated to delightful characters, the power of keeping dreams alive, the real possibility of hopes come true, and the importance of friends and family.

Betsy Carter is the author of two other books: The Orange Blossom Special and her memoir, Nothing to Fall Back On. Other writing credits include contributing editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, former editor at Esquire, Newsweek, and Harper's Bazaar. She has written for Good Housekeeping, AARP, New York, and other national publications. She was the founding editor of New York Woman. Carter lives in New York City.

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