Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Review: I Can't Swim

Title I Can't Swim

Author Renee Simpson

Release Date November 6, 2012

Did your aunt ever get drunk at the holidays and call everyone in your family motherf***rs? If so, you will love this book. If not, you will especially love this book.

Meet the Applewhites in the 80s, a clan of Brits transplanted to New York City. Reebee, a fat seven year old with a penchant for lying and a fear of poltergeists, is the unwitting chronicler of the Applewhites' many maladaptations.

Through Reebee's eye for absurdity with compelling touches of humanity, we meet--her young mother, a chain smoker with a foul mouth and model looks, her mother's Italian immigrant boyfriend who is dangerously frugal, and married, her mother's stalker, an elderly cocaine dealer, and her mother's best friend, a portly Bronx woman who enjoys dancing Merengue and resolving problems outside of the law. The extended family court danger in their own highly idiosyncratic ways.

Reebee can't swim, but she does learn to navigate life and her family, as revealed in the last chapter, a flash forward to 2012 that finds her with a law degree, living in Uruguay with a Mr. Universe runner-up, who she runs away from.

Back in NYC, Reebee moves in with her now youth obsessed mother, and a new Applewhite, her orphaned teenage cousin who is out of the closet and searching for his identity. We can't pick our families, but we can certainly pick on their insanity.

This fictional memoir was just what I needed... a good, hearty dose of comedy.

This book was incredibly easy to read and very enjoyable. I loved the short story/essay format. Renee's writing is fantastic. She easily paints her scenes, brings her characters to life, and tells her story in a way that makes it easy to feel like a fly on the wall in Reebee's life.

So, whether you can relate to family craziness or were spared from the insanity, I definitely recommend I Can't Swim. It's a great book.


5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from the author in exchange for an honest review. *

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