Swimming for Sunlight: A Novel (Paperback)
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When recently divorced Katie Ellis and her rescue dog Bark move back in with Katie’s grandmother in Florida, she becomes swept up in a reunion of her grandmother’s troupe of underwater performers—finding hope and renewal in unexpected places, in this sweet novel perfect for fans of Kristan Higgins and Claire Cook.
Aspiring costume designer Katie gave up everything in her divorce to gain custody of her fearful, faithful rescue dog, Barkimedes. While she figures out what to do next, she heads back to Florida to live with her grandmother, Nan.
But Katie quickly learns there’s a lot she doesn’t know about Nan—like the fact that in her youth Nan was a mermaid performer in a roadside attraction show, swimming and dancing underwater with a close-knit cast of talented women. Although most of the mermaids have since lost touch, Katie helps Nan search for her old friends on Facebook, sparking hopes for a reunion show. Katie is up for making some fabulous costumes, but first, she has to contend with her crippling fear of water.
As Katie’s college love Luca, a documentary filmmaker, enters the fray, Katie struggles to balance her hopes with her anxiety, and begins to realize just how much Bark’s fears are connected to her own, in this thoughtful, charming novel about hope after loss and friendships that span generations.
About the Author
Allie Larkin is the internationally bestselling author of the novels, Stay and Why Can’t I Be You. Her short fiction has been published in the Summerset Review and Slice, and nonfiction in the anthologies, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship and Author in Progress. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, with her husband, Jeremy, and their fearful, faithful German Shepherd, Stella.
"With a light touch and a big heart, Allie Larkin has crafted a moving, humorous, and utterly absorbing novel about a woman who discovers that sometimes you need to take a step back to learn how to move forward. I fell in love with her witty, strong-willed, resilient characters — including Barkimedes, the rescue pup whose spirit sparks both joy and growth in everyone he meets."
—Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
"Allie Larkin knows her characters so well—and loves them so much. Reading Swimming for Sunlight is like visiting a real place, spending time with a real and really good friend."
—Rainbow Rowell, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park
“Swimming for Sunlight hits all of the women’s fiction sweet spots: strong relationships that grow throughout the book, light romance, and a main character who is easy to root for. An excellent suggestion for readers looking for an engaging summer read.
—Booklist, starred review
"Larkin enthralls with a revealing view of one woman’s life as she moves on after a painful divorce. . . . Emotional and heartwarming, Larkin’s touching story is complete with romance, nostalgia, and genuine friendship."
"Sweet, tender, and real, Allie Larkin's work is funny, endearing, and simply lovely time and time again."
—Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six
"Populated by vivid characters that include aging "mermaids" and a companion dog so endearing that I, a cat person, was tempted to go find my own Barkimedes, Swimming for Sunlight is a rare thing: an intelligent, compassionate, entertaining tale that satisfies both the heart and the head. I loved this book and everyone in it!”
—Therese Anne Fowler, author of A Well Behaved Woman and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
"I instantly fell in love with this narrator—who’s brave, funny, feisty, tender, and, most of all, relatable. She handles a seismic change in her life with rapier-sharp humor and grace, proving that life’s curveballs can be processed with love and laughter—and the often-underestimated power of the companionship and loyalty of animals. Katie's next chapter in life takes us on a wild, waterpark ride, addressing losses in her past, the surfacing of a college flame, and a grandmother you'll wish was your own. Add to this Larkin’s descriptive writing—which sparkles on the page—and you have a gem of a novel."
—Lolly Winston, New York Times bestselling author of Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately
"I loved every page of this beautiful, heartfelt book. Full of compassion, warmth, and charm, Larkin makes a complex story about anxiety and loss and female friendships at all ages feel both effortless and hopeful. I dare you not to hug this book when you finish.”
—Julie Buxbaum, New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things and What to Say Next
"Poignant and funny, touching and eccentric, Swimming for Sunlight is brimming with heart. A gem of a novel that will charm not only dog lovers, but anyone, anywhere who's ever felt a twinge of anxiety. In other words, all of us."
—Tish Cohen, author of Inside Out Girl and Town House
"This novel of hope, loss and friendships—both human and furry—make for the perfect spring read."
"I love this wonderful book for many reasons, but at the top of the list is its rendering of intergenerational friendships. Nan, Althea, Mo, Bitsie, Marta: we should all have such brave, generous, complicated women in our lives. It was pure joy to spend time in their company and I missed them the second I finished the book!"
—Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of The Precious One
“Simply put, we are all Katie Ellis, the narrator of this wonderful book. That’s the power of Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin. We’ve been down. We’ve been hurt. We’ve had our lives flipped upside down. But, somehow, with the help of the people who matter most, we’ve come back stronger. It’s funny, quirky, and as big-hearted as a rescue dog. I was all in from page one.”
—Matthew Norman, author of We’re All Damaged and Domestic Violets
"In Swimming for Sunlight, Allie Larkin has written an absorbing, insightful tale of all the people and places in which we find strength. She's created a world I’d love to live in, full of vividly rendered characters who are as complex and resilient as they are big-hearted and funny. There is nothing like a great story, well-told; this is Larkin’s specific expertise."
—Caroline Angell, author of All the Time in the World
"A thoughtful, tender story about losing everything and starting all over again, Swimming for Sunlight reminds us of the joy that comes when we open our hearts to unexpected friendships. I fell in love with Allie Larkin's quirky and endearing characters and found myself thinking about them long after I turned the last page."
—Ann Mah, author of The Lost Vintage
“A heartfelt and bittersweet ode to taking the long-view of life when we fall short of our own expectations, to choosing courage and hope in the face of disappointment and tragedy. This book was just what my soul needed.”
—Julia Whelan, author of My Oxford Year
"[An] insightful novel, which contains humorous selections to keep it light and fast moving."
—NY Journal of Books
"A great spring read."
"There’s a new must-love dog in the neighborhood . . . [a] heartening and humorous tale."