Swim to me

Written by Betsy Carter
Review by Trudi E. Jacobson

Betsy Carter has written a charming book set at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida in the early 1970s, though the gentle story feels as if it could have happened in the more innocent ’50s. Dolores Walker and her family visit the Springs on a family vacation to Florida, and Dolores immediately identifies with the young women in the mermaid show. When Dolores’s father lifts her in a mermaid-like pose above his head, generating the admiration of other tourists, her fate is sealed. Just two years later, the 16-year-old takes a bus, alone, from her not-very-happy home in the Bronx to try out at Weeki Wachee. She is tall, graceful and a strong swimmer: she is hired. Dolores and the other young mermaids, a rather interesting lot, are managed by Thelma Foote, a woman with quite a story of her own from her mermaid days. Miss Foote does well by her girls, and finds ways to keep Weeki Wachee viable, one of which reintroduces Dolores to the father who abandoned his family shortly after their Florida vacation.

Dolores is as graceful growing up as she is in the water. We see her try to keep close to her adored younger brother back in the Bronx, and to understand the changes her mother is going through. The book comfortably encloses the reader in the warmth of the Springs. Characters that probably would have been bad guys in other novels aren’t in this book, and everything seems to work out. It is a lovely journey seeing just how that happens.