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Swimming Between Worlds

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  370 ratings  ·  104 reviews
From critically acclaimed writer Elaine Neil Orr, a Southern coming-of-age novel that sets three very different young people against the tumultuous years of the American Civil Rights movement.

The lives of one young woman and two young men collide in a small neighborhood in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Kate, a recent college graduate, is still reeling from the deaths of he
Unknown Binding, 401 pages
Published April 1st 2018 by Berkley Books
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  370 ratings  ·  104 reviews

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Elyse Walters
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
NO SPOILERS..............just long! :)

This is the first novel I’ve ever read by author Elaine Neil Orr. She’s a terrific writer...
She has that spellbinding narrative-momentum talent down as great as all my favorite authors.

I didn’t rush-read this book —- but it could be a page turner. I purposely pulled myself away to think and reflect. I thought about the first time I left the country. I was a straight-arrow type student at UC Berkeley in the 70’s - an ex-cheerleader -gymnasts- single white fe
Angela M
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The historical significance of this story and its relevance today is stark. It’s uncomfortable because we know the racism that existed in the 1950’s that led up to the Civil Rights Movement and even more appalling that so much of the racism in the 1950’s and 1960’s is too recognizable today. Sometimes acts of blatant racism are called teaching moments as did the graceful and articulate Valerie Jarrett, a top aid to former President Obama when this past week she was derided and denigrated in an u ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book that took me awhile to get into and some sections were so slow-burn that it took some effort to push forward and continue reading, but I’m glad I stuck with it because in the end I was rewarded with a good story and characters that are hard to forget. Set in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the late 1950s/early 1960s, the narrative revolves around 3 main characters: Tacker Hart, a gifted engineer and all-around popular boy-hero whose life is transformed after returning from a tri ...more
Dear Elaine Neil Orr,

Your book really touched me and I want to share it with the world!!

The Characters
Tacker Hart has come home disgraced, from Nigeria to Winston Salem. He might be disgraced, but he did learn how to treat African Americans in an empathetic way while he was there. Kate Monroe needs answers. She goes on a quest to find them. She is the love interest for Tacker. They both encounter Gaines Townson, an African American, who believes that nonviolence is the answer.

Sometimes the int
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I think that the description of this book promised a lot more than the book delivered. It's not a coming of age story unless you come of age when you're 25 and no lives "collided" here.

The book is set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, primarily in Winston-Salem, North Carolina although some of the story involves flashbacks to the time that Tacker Hart spent in Nigeria working as an engineer on a project to build schools. Tacker loved the time he spent in Nigeria and his descriptions of his time
Dale Harcombe
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tacker Hart, a local football hero in his home town in North Carolina, heads off to Nigeria on assignment to help with plans for building a high school. He is drawn to the people of Nigeria and the culture there. Sadly, instead of being able to experience it as long as he would have liked, he is sent home in disgrace. He takes on managing his father’s grocery store and reconnects with Kate Monroe, who he only knew vaguely from school. Kate’s parents have died and some letters send her searching ...more
Normally I try to write reviews as soon as I read a book but this one affected me to the point that I had to wait a few days and think about the book before I could review it. It's about integration in Winston Salem NC in the early 60s. Even though I didn't live in the South during that time period, I have lived in a town close to WS for 40 years and have heard stories about the sit-ins at the Woolworth stores in Greensboro and WS. This wonderful well written book gave those events a human persp ...more
Hoang Chi Truong
I received this Advance Reader Copy as a prize from Goodreads Giveaway Contest in 2017. The book is from Berkley, Penguin Random House. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and wanted to leave a review for others to discover it. I believe that this book is especially important and timely not only for this month being February's Black History Month, but also for the racial inequality and tension that our nation is still experiencing in modern history.

As a refugee from Vietnam since 1975, I appreciate l
Connie Lacy
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A well told tale set in the late 50s and very early 60s filled with the growing awareness of the ugliness of racism in North Carolina. I was drawn in by the main characters (both white) Tacker Hart, just back from a troubled stay in Nigeria, and Kate Monroe, still trying to make sense of the death of her father. These two wounded souls are drawn to each other as they try to navigate changing times and expectations, trying to do what they can for the civil rights cause. Compelling and memorable.
Leslie Lindsay
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
SWIMMING BETWEEN WORLDS is such a tender, thoughtful, and affecting read on what it means to be touched by another culture--brimming with personal and social issues and told in a gentle, glimmering prose.

I'll admit to having a bit of a cover crush on SWIMMING BETWEEN WORLDS. I mean, it's stunning, right? To me, it embodies summer with a nod to a simpler time. Of course, we read because of the story, not the cover. And this one absolutelybrings the carefree days of yesteryear to light, but...wer
Viviane Crystal
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tacker is an engineering student who graduated and went to work with a notable engineering firm in Nigeria, Africa. A man who fully embraces every thing he did and does, he wound up being fired and sent back to America. His fault? Getting too close to the native Nigerians, embracing their culture, innocently embracing religious and other rituals, and supposedly consorting in a physical relationship with a Nigerian. Shades of Jim Crow extending its tentacles overseas. Tacker comes back to his hom ...more
Lis Carey
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's 1960, and Tacker Hart, a young architect, has just returned from a year and a half in Nigeria to his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was there as part of a project to build high schools, and while there he fell in love with local culture. He made Nigerian friends. And he's been sent home in disgrace, for "going native."

Kate Monroe was a high school classmate, but went to Agnes Scott College. Unexpectedly even to herself, she's become a photographer. She has also, after the death o
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You know those books that you start and about a paragraph in you know you are in trouble? The kind of book that you will not be able to put down and all semblance of normal life will cease until you turn the last page? Swimming Between Worlds is one of those books. I knew before I turned to the second page that my day was shot. At least in regards to any plans I had beyond reading – because that is all I did. I didn’t even cook dinner – my husband was on his own.

There are three main characters i
Elaine Neil Orr practices several of the meaningful writing aspects - 1) Write What You Know; 2) Create Interesting Characters; 3) Tell a Unique Story and she does it with great flair. She fashions an intriguing story that makes it hard not to say, oh one more chapter...

The story begins with the main character Tacker Hart interacting with his friend Samuel in Nigeria. Tacker is a new graduate hired to work with Nigerians to build a prototype High School for all Nigerian Schools. When he was offe
Debbie Lester
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Author Elaine Neil Orr brings readers a novel set during the turbulent civil rights movement of the 1960's. Swimming Between Worlds is part romance, part political drama. Racial tensions and segregation were at an all time high when three young people from different walks of life, come together in a way that will change their lives forever. Swimming Between Worlds is a compelling novel that will draw readers back in time and make them consider the question of race and how it relates to us today, ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tacker Hart was a golden boy in his home town. A football star who went to college for architecture, he's returned with his tail all but between his legs after he's sent home from a collaborative job in Nigeria. Of course what Tacker hasn't told anyone is that he was sent home after essentially being accused of going native. Now, with no direction and no goal, he's taken over managing one of his father's grocery stores while he tries to figure out what to do next.

Kate Monroe knew Tacker in high
Mar 17, 2018 rated it liked it
It took me a while into the book to get to the point where I wanted to read it for the information rather than reading just because I needed to read it for a review. The back and forth was a little hard for me to track for a while. The imagery in the book was great though. I could see everything in my mind while I was reading it. It also did make me think about things that were going on in both countries of United States and Nigeria.
Tacker Hart is one of the main characters. He Is from the Unit
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This lyrical, evocative book is thoughtfully rendered. Tucker struggles to find his way in a South that is not as evolved as it could be in a time where not enough was done to make it so. His time in Nigeria has made him forget how dangerous the South can be for those who are considered different. He must decide who he is despite the prevailing attitudes.

Orr lovingly carves out a story rich in detail drawn, apparently, from her own experiences growing up in Nigeria in the 1960’s.

Thanks to Good
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Swimming between Worlds is told through the perspectives of Tacker and Kate, living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on the cusp of the civil rights movement. Tacker and Kate are young adults reeling from painful past experiences, each living on their own and starting out in careers as creative professionals. Tacker studies as an architect and earns a chance to help build a school in Nigeria, where he experie ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like others have stated in their reviews, Elaine Orr's "Swimming Between Worlds" is not a fast read; however, its slow pace seems to mirror the pace of the mid-twentieth century South as well as that of Nigeria. The white characters, Tacker and Kate, are fully developed, but Gaines, the young African-American key character, is seen mainly through the eyes of Tacker and Kate. Rather than seeing this as a weakness to this novel, though, I felt that it was a realistic portrayal of the challenges of ...more
Sara Smith
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: early-reads
I received a free ARC of this book from the Random First to Read Program.

This book is about Tacker who goes to Nigeria to help build schools, but ends up coming home early in disgrace. He starts managing his father's grocery store in the 1960s south where segregation is very much alive. Tacker meets Gaines, a black college student who is working to integrate the south. Tacker was changed by his time in Nigeria and has to decide if he's going to help Gaines. Tacker also meets Kate, a girl from hi
Stephanie *Spunky Avenger*
I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review. All my opinions are my own.

Swimming between worlds is a heart wrenching, giggle producing, love finding book that shows the side of the south in the late 50's and early 60's. It is about a white man who doesn't see color he just sees the heart of the person.

It was a book I couldn't put down and cried when I finished it for more that one reason, we'll written and a must read! Just make sure you have some tissue.
Donna Huber
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: april2018, for-review
It was really good up to the end which was very sad. I wasn't prepared for the ending. Read my full review at Girl Who Reads.
Katy Yocom
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book pulled me into its world and didn't let me go. The characters felt so real to me--I wanted the best for them, and I cared about what happened to them. It was a fascinating look at people who had to decide how to respond to a swiftly changing world. Each character's reckoning was handled beautifully and sensitively by the author. It made me ask myself: What would I have done? Would I have been as brave as I'd like to think I would?
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I have been reading quite a bit about the civil rights time period in U.S. history and was looking forward to reading this as well. The book started off slow for me and I sometimes got lost between Tacker in the present and his time in Nigeria. However, I got into the rhythm of the story and the development of the characters that I finished the book quickly.

I believe I will reread this book in order to truly process the themes. It is well written and is so applicable to our present day events.
Susan Katz
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really terrific book. See my review on if you want details!
Sandra Stiles
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book set in the early sixties to have been written today. This book looks at segregation during the sixties. Although we no longer have segregation, or not to the extent we once had it, we still have racial issues. As much as we want to ignore it this problem is still here. The story is told through multiple perspectives. Tacker goes to Nigeria to help build schools. He is considered a minority in Nigeria and learns what it is like to be discriminated against. He returns to the United State ...more
Kathy Kirstner
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Well written, rich characters, laughter and tears.
Jay bookworm
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is not an easy read. I do appreciate the opportunity through First Reads to read and provide a review of the novel. This is a vast work and takes a good deal of time to read and process. I think it is one of those books that would be great to explore as part of a class where you dissect the characters, the various plot lines and what is going on in the world, especially the U.S. south at the time. I really do wonder what it was like then although we continue to struggle today with our ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you to First to Read for my free advance reading copy of this book. This book was beautifully written and is a coming of age story in the late 50s/early 60s during the Civil Rights movement. The book was a little slow to start, but once I was introduced to the three central characters and was able to learn more about each, I was hooked. Tacker Hart has just moved back home to North Carolina after spending some time abroad in Nigeria and getting too "involved" with the locals, causing the g ...more
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After surviving end stage renal disease in my early forties with the gift of two transplants (kidney and pancreas), I took a right turn in my writing life: from scholarship to creative writing. Because I was born and grew up in Nigeria, my memoir and fiction are trans-Atlantic. I am keenly interested in place, not as a backdrop for stories but as a character. What I love most about writing is the ...more