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Swim to Me: 04/20/10
Delores Walker in Swim to Me by Betsy Carter loves to swim and is enchanted one summer by the mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs. She decides to leave her home in the Bronx after her father abandons the family to become a mermaid herself. She reinvents herself as Delores Taurus as the Springs is trying to do the same in the shadow of the recently opened Walt Disney World.
The Walt Disney World plot point is the weakest and most distracting part of an otherwise charming coming of age novel. Yes, both places still exist and yes, Walt Disney World was opened in 1971 but the book makes it sound like Walt Disney himself is threatening to close Week Wachee Springs. First of all, he couldn't have done it himself as he died in 1966 of congestive heart failure brought on by invasive lung cancer. Secondly, the company itself was in a bit of a managerial blackhole as Walt hadn't named a successor. The park in Florida was completed because the company had so much invested in the project; it would have been financial suicide to pull out. Walt Disney Productions (yet to me renamed The Walt Disney Company) was not the powerhouse in 1971 that it is today. Finally the two parks are separated by roughly 90 miles of driving along a state highway. That happens to be the same distance between Sea World in San Diego and Disneyland in Anaheim; they are worlds apart and completely different tourist destinations.
Now back to the book. Ignoring the glaring anachronisms in a minor subplot, the book is basically a coming of age story about a young woman with an extraordinary talent for swimming and the drive to make herself something more than she is at first glance: a scared and homesick girl from the Bronx. Her mentor in the book is a washed out Mermaid, turned owner of the resort who reminds me quite favorably of Lily Charles from Pushing Daisies.
There are quirky characters and silly turns in the plot reminiscent of Big Fish and any number of Carl Hiaasen's books (also set in Florida). I liked the mixture of real life albeit wacky setting, odd ball characters and crazy schemes. Were it not for the lingering Walt Disney errata, I would have given the book a 5 out of 5 on Goodreads.
The worst part of this plot thread is that it is completely unnecessary to the book.
Comment #1: Wednesday, April, 21, 2010 at 17:59:11
Great review. I didn't know that much about Disney World. As for the book, it does sound interesting. I haven't heard of it before.
Comment #2: Friday, April 23, 2010 at 21:48:57
Disney World is a very minor plot point in the book.
Comment #3: Wednesday, May, 5, 2010 at 13:57:27
You liked it a lot more than I did!! It was way too cornball for me. But not horrible or offensive. Just ok, I guess.
Comment #4: Friday, May 7, 2010 at 12:57:35
The cornball aspect was the main appeal for me.