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Fiction Review – Night Swimming

Night Swimming by Robin Schwarz

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)


What if, heaven forbid, you were told you only had one year left to live?  After the shock subsided, what would you do?  How would you spend the rest of the time left to you?  This is the premise of an interesting novel by Robin Schwarz called “Night Swimming”.

Our heroine is 34-year-old Charlotte Clapp.  After a routine physical, she is called back to her doctor’s office and given the devastating news:  she has cancer, the same type of cancer that took her own mother a few years back, and by the doctor’s reckoning, she has just about one year left to live.

Charlotte is in shock.  The unfairness of it all overwhelms her.  She has lived in the same small town in New Hampshire all her life.  She is single, having lost her boyfriend to her former best friend while nursing her dying mother.  She works in the bank in town, sees all the same people every day, knows every one of them, and basically feels that life is passing her by, all 253 pounds of her.  And now this.  One year left.

Charlotte remembers the last conversation she had with her mother, who confessed to Charlotte that, while she had loved her husband and was thrilled to have Charlotte as a daughter, she had some regrets.  She had always wanted to travel…to see Paris, Italy, the pyramids.  Her suitcases were purchased but never used, except as storage cases in the basement.  She pleaded with her daughter to live her life, and not have any regrets at the end.  Little did Charlotte know how soon that end was going to arrive.

And so, as Charlotte leaves her doctor’s office, a plan is brewing in the back of her mind.  She doesn’t have all the details worked out, but she does have something in mind.  She swings by the bank where she has worked for 15 years..and quits.  Then she goes home and between sobs, eats every bit of junk food in the house, drinks a bottle of wine or two, and passes out on the couch. When she awakens, she has another plan.

She spends her last day at work clearing out her work area of all the accumulated junk that piles up after 15 years.  A hastily-planned going-away luncheon is held for her, where she tells people she will head for Florida and Disney World, and then perhaps to New Orleans.  She offers to lock up the bank—one last time—and after everyone leaves, loads up two million dollars in small bills.  She hurries home, packs the money in her mother’s dusty, unused suitcases, dumps her car in the river, picks up a used Jaguar and heads off for Hollywood.  The thing is, she left in such a hurry (probably due to having robbed the bank of two million dollars) that she has missed the phone call from her doctor’s office, explaining that there was a mix-up between her chart, and the chart of a Charlotte Clapp from Durham.

The author has created a likeable character in Charlotte, someone quite a few readers will be able to recognize and relate to.  And of course, the premise of “What would you do?” is a fascinating one.  Schwarz gives Charlotte an earnest, yet amusing voice.  She finds herself in comic yet believable situations, and what could have been just a “chick lit” book is something much more satisfying.  This is Robin Schwarz’s first novel, and I look forward to reading more of her work!





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