The Night Swim – 5 Star Review

“That’s the thing about mistakes. Not all of them can be fixed.”

-Megan Goldin, The Night Swim

Let’s first start out by saying this book is one giant trigger warning, as this review will inevitably be also. The book focuses on the topic of rape with some murder thrown in. The Night Swim is a thriller/mystery novel that follows the main character Rachel, a famous podcaster, who covers the court case of a locally famous teenage boy who is accused of raping a high school girl. During the time she spends covering the trial, Rachel is mysteriously contacted by another local girl, Hannah, who wants Rachel to look into the death of her sister that happened in the same town, 25 years earlier. While Rachel’s primary duty is to create a new season for her crime podcast, she finds herself further and further drawn into Hannah’s story about her sister, and begins to find the two situations more similar and connected than one would think.

I think this is a novel a lot of people should read, if they can stomach the subject, because it revolves around the idea of how mistreated rape cases are. Society has definitely come a long way on the views of rape but still has some ground to cover. Rachel briefly talks about how women are so often not believed or brushed aside when accusations of being raped come out. People often think “If only she hadn’t been walking alone at night” or “If only she had worn a little more clothing” instead of “If only this person hadn’t attacked another human being”. Sometimes people still attribute the guilt of the attack to the abused and not the abuser simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that is far from the correct mindset. Rachel states at one point: “To tell you the truth, I don’t get how we can almost unanimously agree that murder is wrong, yet when it comes to rape some people still see shades of gray.”

I found this book to be a quick read and one that was difficult to put down! We alternated between the POVs of Rachel, Rachel’s Podcast episode, and Hannah. The chapters were all relatively short and it was not hard to switch between the POVs or story lines. I found this story similar to the book Miracle Creek in the sense of the courtroom proceedings that take place. I really like courtroom novels! A few years ago I served on a jury for a murder-for-hire case in real life and I really thought the whole process was interesting. Ironically I am not one for detective novels, which you would think go hand in hand.
Anyway, the book wraps up nicely and parts of the story connections were a surprise to me. If I had to say one negative thing about this book, it’s that Rachel’s character felt a little flat. I had more of an emotional connection to Hannah and found Rachel to really be unwavering and stoic through most of it, and she is the POV we read through the majority of the book. While Rachel presents a neutral view for her podcast listeners, I found her to be that way while she was digging into Hannah’s story which I found a bit unrealistic. Everyone is wired differently though, I just had a hard time relating to it.

The Night Swim is a group read for my book club Monthly Book Club for the month of November, so we will be having a full spoiler discussion on it! I think it will be a hit and one that will garner a lot discussion.

Review by Kelly

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