Swimming Toward The Ocean

Written by Carole Glickfeld
Review by Andrea Connell

This warmhearted family drama opens in Brighton Beach, New York in 1953. Chenia Arnow, a Russian-Jewish immigrant, discovers that she is pregnant with her third child at age forty-five. She is distraught. Her self-indulgent philanderer of a husband, who thrives on his extramarital affairs and get-rich-quick schemes, doesn¹t relish the prospect of a new addition either. Despite Chenia’s eccentric attempts to rid herself of the child, Devorah arrives safely into the world. Her arrival sets the stage for the Arnow family’s evolution and Chenia’s personal voyage of self-discovery.

Devorah narrates the family’s story, recounting her parents’ conflicts and their relationships with their children. What she does not witness, she extrapolates using her own fertile imagination.

Although the story is told from Devorah’s point of view, Chenia is the focus of the story. The books delves into the very heart of Chenia’s struggles, particularly being an “old” world immigrant in a “new” world. She possesses conflicting traits that draw our sympathy and make us check our judgment: she is both strong and vulnerable, superstitious and rational, dispirited and sanguine. She engages the reader powerfully with her wit and intelligence.

Swimming Toward the Ocean is a beautiful tale, overflowing with candor, humor, and compassion. The prose is lucid and unpretentious. The plot is mesmerizing from the fist page and never fails to hold the reader’s attention. I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a satisfying family drama brimming with poignant life lessons.