Review: Night Swimming by Steph Bowe

Kirby Arrow is one of two seventeen year olds that live in their tiny town, four hours out of Sydney. It may get lonely sometimes, but things are pretty comfortable. After all, Clancy Lee is her bff (even if he is leaving for Sydney next year,) and after dropping out of school, Kirby has found herself a good job making furniture with a local, semi-retired neighbour. And her home life is mostly good--she lives on a goat farm with her mother, grandfather and her cousin Nathan. So what if her dad walked out on her, and her grandfather is in the early stages of Alzheimer's? Life is comfortable. And, of course there is Stanley her beloved pet goat. Why should she leave town, just because she's almost grown up? And then, something unexpected happens. A new girl moves to town, bubbly, clever Iris. Clancy begins to fall for immediately. The only problem is, Kirby might be falling in love with Iris too, and suddenly, life no longer seems so simple ...

This is a sweet tale about a young woman who has reached the point in their adolescence where the future is full of uncertainty. No longer a child--though not quite yet an adult--Kirby has to face the reality that her home town may not be offering the future that she wants, or needs. And then there is the added complication of a first love. Does Iris love her back? Is it even really fair of her to start seeing Iris when it will break the heart of her dearest friend? 

This was a quick and enjoyable read. The author was just twenty-three when the novel was published, and her understanding of the uncertainties of adolescence shows on every page. Handled less well was the ending--I felt that some things came about a bit too suddenly and that the flood that destroyed entire parts of the town seemed a little tacked on, and felt as though it was only done to give the Kirby the push to make a decision that she was clearly going to make anyway, after speaking to her biological father. That said, this story is written with a whole lot of heart--and understanding--and it shows. The potential for this author was, sadly, huge. (Steph Bowe passed away earlier this year from an aggressive form of Leukaemia. She published three novels in her lifetime, of which Night Swimming was the most recent.) 

On the whole, a fun read about adolescence, family and discovering who you really are. Recommended.

This book was read for the Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2020


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