1990s, Wisconsin's Door Peninsula- A man just graduated from college and a young widow, Mrs. Abel, swim together at night, making their way across miles of open lake. The meaning behind these night swims and the narrator's relationship to Mrs. Abel become increasingly clouded as the summer passes, until the night Mrs. Abel disappears. Twenty years later, the man brings his wife and two daughters back to the peninsula, attempting to understand his past. As he rebuilds a world he's lost with decades-old relics, he searches for clues to the fate of Mrs. Abel and begins to swim long distances in dark water once again. A novel of highly charged and transformative thought and soaring physicality, The Night Swimmersexplores the depths of an identity in motion with lyrical insight and reflective imagination few works of fiction can summon. It lays bare what it means to come to terms with your fraught and weighted choices as you struggle to make peace with the person you've found yourself to be. Consonant with other Sebaldian re-inventors of autobiographical fiction, this novel is an exploration of unrelenting meaning.
This is a novel that I read grimly, turning pages and hoping for a moment of substance to weigh the thing down. No such luck. This is navel-gazing at its finest. If you enjoy semi-autobiographical novels about a well-off white man with a lack of direction and a poor understanding of boundaries, then this is the book for you.