Book Review: “Swim Back to Me” by Ann Packer

There are five short stories in this book by Ann Packer. Overall, the stories are interesting but the fact that they’re short stories seems to make me want more like “what happens at the end?” I particularly like the author’s masterful use of metaphors. The sad stories are also easy to follow and down to earth, especially most happened in the Bay Area. They’re all about missing the loved ones and emotional struggle dealing with loss. The audiobooks are wonderful with five audio narrators skillfully mimicking the voices of the people. Some of the description of the stories are copied from Amazon. I have my comments at the end.

“Walk for Mankind,” teenager Richard Appleby describes his bittersweet relationship with Sasha Horowitz, a rebellious, risk-taking 14-year-old, who has a clandestine affair with a drug dealer. The narrative starts from the present when the narrator is 50+ years old. The author and the readers never knew what happened to Sasha after they parted their way 30+ years before, thanks to the narrator’s intentional loss of the scrap paper, most likely having the contact information from Sasha. He “murdered” two birds in one stone and many readers wishing for more.

“Things Said or Done” is set three decades later, when Sasha, now 51 and divorced, has become Richard’s caretaker, forced to deal with his self-destructive, narcissistic personality while recognizing the ways in which they are alike. This is the part I didn’t hear from the audiobook. Maybe I’d need to go back and re-listen it.

“Molten” conveys a mother’s grief over her adolescent son’s senseless death – killed while rescuing another boy tracked on the railroad track. This one is rather emotional. The author did a great job in expressing the grieving mother’s emotion.

“Dwell Time” features a protagonist’s happy second marriage—until her husband disappears. This odd story describe a perpetually disappearing man from the war zone of the family life. I’m not sure if it’s related to the post-traumatic disorder or not. I can imagine someone would something like that though I never met one.

In the affecting “Her First Born,” a new father finally understands his wife’s attachment to the memory of her first child, who died. Another loss of dear family member, in the case a 6-month old baby, showed how good the author is in expressing the embarrassment and sorrow of confronting other expecting parents.

“Jump” is an odd story about a rich man’s son who fakes an underprivileged background to work in a photocopy shop. This one is probably a filler – not much to talk about.