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The Night Swimmers

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  46 reviews
“Swimming at night, to compare its slipperiness to that of a dream would be to ignore the work of staying afloat, the mesmerism brought on by the rhythm, the repetition of the strokes.”
Beneath the surface of Lake Michigan there are vast systems: crosscutting currents, sudden drop-offs, depths of absolute darkness, shipwrecked bodies, hidden places.  Peter Rock’s stunnin
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published March 12th 2019 by Soho Press
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Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  158 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Peter Rock
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
I loved writing this book! I hope it shows. For now I'll give it five stars, though that might change with time.
Cherise Wolas
Lovely, tender, introspective, intertextual, and surprisingly suspenseful. I had the sense, before I began reading, that this was going to be a prototypical coming-of-age story, focused on a relationship between a younger man and an older woman. But it's not at all, and I am so pleased that it wasn't. Beginning in the 1990s, the author-narrator is a recent college graduate, a lost and confused would-be writer, spending the summer at his family's summer home on Lake Michigan, with plans to stay o ...more
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Much of who we are and what influences us lies right below the surface— “shadowy figures, shards of other times, glimpses into thickets of trees, rooms of houses I’ve never been inside.” For our unnamed narrator, who is certainly Peter Rock, an influence has always been Mrs. Abel, a mysterious 40-something widow who swims nightly in the currents of Lake Michigan. But one night, she mysteriously and temporarily disappears while exploring a strange shoal. In Night Swimmers, the narrator – two deca ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
There’s nothing like diving into a novel with depth. And Peter Rock certainly shows us the depths of Lake Michigan and his love of night swimming in open water, as he looks back, age 50, to the summer of 1994, when he was 26 and a recent college grad. I share Rock’s love of swimming, so I just about twinned with him as he described, through beautiful imagery, the mystical power of open water swimming, specifically at night. “On the horizon I could see the lights of distant boats…We found our rhy ...more
Bill Hsu
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
"If you already have a metal knife," my older daughter asked, "why would you make knives out of wood?"

"I don't know," I said. "It doesn't really make sense. That was just what I liked to do."

In my favorite Peter Rock novels, motivations are often mysterious. Mundane objects and actions, despite the quiet, earnest prose, usually point to confusion and uncanny, frustrating outcomes. I've read a number of Rock's earlier novels and his excellent short story collection; this feels
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, peter-rock
Oh my! At first I underlined every word, phrase, thought that reminded me if Rock’s earlier books. After a while, I was so enraptured with the story, I forgot to underline. This is truly a story of love and mystique, but it’s not a love story. I’ve always said “My Abandonment” is my favorite. This is competition. Beautiful...
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
I like weird.

I like swimming.

I like stories about other writers.

And I like a good mystery.

So when I picked up Peter Rock's new novel, a semi-autobiographical foray into all of the above, I signed on with enthusiasm.

"Beneath the surface of Lake Michigan there are vast systems: crosscutting currents, sudden
drop-offs, depths of absolute darkness, shipwrecked bodies, hidden places..."

Oh delicious mystery. Who isn't curious ab
Andy Miller
There is great writing for this novel about a young man's long night swims with a mysterious, increasingly ethereal widow who is young enough to create sexual tension during their swims but old enough to separate herself from him. This is not a Mrs. Robinson.
The book's first paragraph sets the tone:

"To swim with another person-out in the open water at night, across a distance without stopping-is like taking a walk without the pressure, the weight of having to carry a conversation. t
Paula Margulies
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First, full disclosure - I've known Peter Rock since 2006, when we were both writing residents at Caldera, an artist colony in Sisters, Oregon. Or at least, I thought I knew Pete. After reading this book, I feel I know him so much more, as both a gifted author and as a person who sees the world in that quiet, layered, deeply conscious way that only certain artists and writers have.
The book is called a novel, but it's more a work of creative nonfiction, filtered through the lens of memory, where
Victoria Miller
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This small book is elegantly written, and a lovely summer read. The narrator tells a wonderful story of summers spent a the summer cabin at the lake, swimming long distances at night and suddenly finding himself with a companion. Some of the most beautiful writing I've ever encountered in this book, the rhythm of the story at times even conveying the feeling of swimming with long strokes and glides. There is more to the story than just the summers at the lake; however, I tend to believe in letti ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Pete finally lets us in, and it is magical and uncanny.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
‘And yet to avoid, to forget is a kind of betrayal, pretending that there’s no continuity between myself then and now.’

I admit to never having read any previous books by Peter Rock, so coming to this autobiographical novel was a bit like stepping into mid-conversation, or arriving at a party two hours after it started. I feel that had I read some of his other work I might have got more out of this, but as it is, I felt that this was a rewarding and beguiling work which I thoroughly
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When do we develop the ability to have intimacy? At what point do we break past hesitation to know those we are drawn to?

Through memories and delicate description, Peter Rock traces this process as an opening of self, and not exclusively a romantic process (although perhaps yes, at times, romance in the sense of electric presence, of intimate knowing). It is his memories of this unfolding through a personal lexicon, through a patchwork of images and moments.

There’s so much texture in this book
Cathy Mcbride
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Night Swimmers has been reviewed as an autobiographical novel, but the lines may be blurrier than that. The story starts in the 1990s on Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. The narrator has recently graduated from college and is beginning his life as a writer (all the hows and whys of his future remain undefined and this troubles him).

He is living with his parents on the lakeshore when he meets an intriguing widow at a party. And they have this in common, they both enjoy distance night swimming, bu
Natalie Serber
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, meditative book that brought me thoughtful moments, joyful moments and filled me with curiosity. It's a thoroughly engrossing confluence of novel, memoir, and collage, full of obsessions and notes, curiosity and love. The book is about a young man, who returns to his parent's home after college. He wants to be a writer and his writing is often performative, he imagines neighbors seeing him, seated beneath a lamp, working, and he loves the idea that people may talk of him as 'the wri ...more
Peter Rock's gorgeous exploration of his young adulthood in Wisconsin in the summer of 1994 is perfectly realized in his autobiographical novel, The Night Swimmers. The narrator strikes up a companionable friendship with a widow who lives up the road from his parents house as they share a love of night swimming. Rock so expertly depicts the confused unease of a young person trying to navigate relationships, it's excruciating in its awkwardness, but also beautiful in its humanness. While their re ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Two stars only for the parts that involved Mrs. Abel. The night swims with her were the most interesting parts of the book for me. The rest was just page after page of self-absorption: how the author felt when his past relationships didn't work out, what happened to the letters he wrote to his old girlfriends, what he thought about while he was floating in a sensory deprivation tank, what books he was reading at different times in his life. Oy! I found it hilarious that he didn't really seem con ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autofiction, novel
An interesting book, a lyrical and mutitextual/intertextual autobiographical story of a midlife father, writer, husband re-examining his 20s at his family’s summer home in Door County, Wisconsin. The writing is beautiful and the scene-setting terrific. This is a haunting book as well as a book of hauntings, by the author/narrator’s own past, his ex-girlfriend, the neighbor he swam with years ago, another neighbor whose vanishing is easily explained, his reading, his grandparents, the shipwrecks ...more
Sara Powers
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Peter Rock is one of the most underrated writers working today. In The Night Swimmers, his stylish, understated prose delivers an uttterly suprising work. When the novel opens, in a cabin on a lake in the Wisconsin woods, one expects a more conventional coming of age story, but it develops into so much more: an excavation of memory and our relationship to the past, a suspenseful (supernatural?) mystery, and a love story, although not the one you expect.

Read for the prose, for its ele
Jeff Cohen
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This fictional memoir has so much intimacy and immediacy that I found myself checking the book jacket more than once to see that it was really fiction.

As the narrator looks back to remember a particular summer, and a particular friendship, he takes an archeological and literary journey through failed past relationships. Life is so much about the things that you don't say. And the things that you don't do. This is all seen from the vantage point of his present, happily-married life.

Nostalgia ca
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nope, this book just didn’t do it for me, though I did persevere and read to the end.

I found the idea of the friendship between the night swimmers interesting, and the mystery behind her abrupt disappearance compelling, but that mystery did not have anything resembling a satisfactory conclusion.

Interspersed among this story were an odd collection of (sometimes quite lovely but ultimately ineffectual) anecdotes from past and present, old letters, literary quotes, dreams, photographs,
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
poetical book, that appears to blur the lines between biography and fiction.

young writer, we jump at random between
summer in his twenties when he meets enigmatic Mrs Able, recently widowed who joins him in his night swims,
his married life where there seems to be an undefined and unresolved aspect to the relationship he felt had developed that summer
with occasional digressions to his youth, or his earlier relationships, often through exchanged letters
some odd surr
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are not many narratives this elusive and oblique that I would have finished. But something in the writer's tone, his personality as expressed in his words, made me sympathetic and appreciative toward him. The endflap calls it an "autobiographical novel," which I suppose means it's somewhere between 10% and 90% true and somewhere between 20% and 80% an effort to convey to the reader some significant though inconclusive information about what he feels regarding himself and his life. He's art ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For the sake of full disclosure, I've been a fan of Pete Rock's fiction for 20+ years. He is the author of The Shelter Cycle and My Abandonment, among other stunning books, and this new and mysterious novel, The Night Swimmers, might just be my favorite. Rock's work is nearly impossible to encapsulate, but trust me, if you dive in and swim alongside him, you too will find yourself absorbed in memories and magical places (yours and his) and ponder how one ever reconciles the past and present. As ...more
Katie Kegel
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
The setting and topic of this book are both close to my heart. I was so hoping to love this. I plowed through in an afternoon waiting for something to feel special. It wasn’t. This feels like a a very personal story with great significance to the author but that doesn’t create any meaningful connection for the rest of us.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed all this author's work, but I really loved this one. He captured the feeling of being middle aged and looking backwards at past relationships, past actions, and past moments in time, especially at that age between young adult and plain old adult. He knows how to tell a story with the perfect amount of humor. This was a fast audiobook I listened to straight through.
Leslie Crete
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, strange and haunting story. I enjoyed this book very much. That said, I need to point out an error on page 13: Laura Ingalls married Almanzo, not “Alonzo”. Forgive me if I sound petty, but I was an avid Little House fan as a kid (mostly the books, but the tv show too) so that error really got my attention! Frankly I’m surprised it got past the editor.
Frank Key
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
THE NIGHT SWIMMERS by Peter Rock is beautiful and strange in that very particular Peter Rock way that keeps me eagerly returning to his work. I need to let it all settle in my brain, but I think this is my favorite of his novels so far. Highly, highly recommended.
Brittney Corrigan
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The nostalgia in this book is so powerfully rendered that I felt like it was my own, even though I've never been to any of the places in the novel, nor done any of the same things. A hypnotic and immersive read.
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Peter Rock was born and raised in Salt Lake City. His most recent novel is The Night Swimmers, which involves open water swimming, fatherhood, psychic photography and the use of isolation tanks as a means to inhabit the past. He is also the author of the novels SPELLS, Klickitat, The Shelter Cycle, My Abandonment, The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, Carnival Wolves and This Is the Place, as well as ...more