A Memoir of Secrets, Swimming, and the South
Crown, Hardcover, 9781400098187, 272pp.
Publication Date: July 11, 2006
In her sharply observed and ultimately redemptive memoir, Catherine McCall paints a vivid and sometimes heartbreaking portrait of growing up in a complicated Southern family, whose perfect façade hides crippling imperfections.
There are two parents, three children, and five ghosts in the McCall family. With their preppie clothes and country-club smiles, the McCalls look like all the other East End Louisville families. No one knows there are problems, that an internal gash the size of the Ohio river is flooding the family. All Cathy and her siblings can do is promise to stick together no matter what—and swim.
But even though they are fast, the McCall kids can’t outdistance their father’s destructive habits and their mother’s worry. As her family reaches a breaking point and an unexpected love blooms, thirteen-year-old Cathy finds she must keep secrets of her own. Though the love in this family is strong, Cathy must discover if it’s tenacious enough to withstand the truth.
Candid, captivating, and infused with compassion, Lifeguarding affirms the flexible strength of love itself; how family bonds must often bend to the point of breaking . . . and beyond.
“A beautiful book in every way. Written with grace and gentle confidence . . . the sentences are captivating, the real-life characters surprise us with their turnabouts, and the ongoing metaphor of swimming in dangerous waters arises naturally from the landscape of a childhood spent swimming—and watching the unlucky innocent drown.” —Philip Gerard, author of Cape Fear Rising
“A wise and beautiful book. The writing is graceful, searching, and aware. I finished Lifeguarding feeling grateful and admiring of its power. Catherine McCall is a mandatory voice.” —Brad Land, author of Goat
“Lyrical, funny, and heartbreaking by turns, Lifeguarding is a light shined into a dark room. . . . This is the story of the American Every Family swallowing its own secrets.” —Sarah Messer, author of Red House
“Lifeguarding is a tender and gentle exploration of one girl’s journey of healing . . . Serves to remind us that confronting our fears, that blind underwater struggle, is always worth the effort.” —Virginia Holman, author of Rescuing Patty Hearst
“There is, in every well-examined life, a turning point—a time when propriety yields to honesty and fear gives way to courage. This is Catherine McCall’s story, beautifully told, tenderly recollected.” —Beth Kephart, author of Ghosts in the Garden
“If you read only one book a year–here it is.” —Clyde Edgerton, author of Lunch at the Piccadilly