Guys, I’m smitten.
Actually, I’m more than smitten. I’m head over heels, unabashedly gaga, and for once I’m not even referring to my dog. (Although I am quite smitten by him too, thankyouverymuch.) The object of my adoration is Allie Larkin’s latest novel, Swimming for Sunlight, and I truly cannot gush about it enough.
Swimming for Sunlight tells the story of aspiring costume designer Katie Ellis, who finds herself with almost nothing to her name–including her home–thanks to her recent divorce. What she does have is her trusty but nervous dog, Barkimedes, her childhood bedroom at her grandmother’s house in Florida, and a lifetime supply of anxiety. Moving back in with her Nan who raised her, Katie soon finds herself with an unexpected project: helping Nan reconnect with the old friends she performed with in her youth as part of a roadside attraction mermaid show. Designing the costumes for a potential mermaid reunion gives Katie the creative outlet she needs, but there’s one small hitch–she’s terrified of water. Coming to terms with her past and her fears while reestablishing old relationships of her own, Katie’s story is redemptive, heartfelt, and a warm reminder of the bonds in life that can never be broken.
From start to finish, I loved every inch of this book. Allie Larkin has a way of creating characters (human and canine) who nestle right into your heart and never leave. Every relationship is intricately and beautifully developed, every character raw, real, and complex. I didn’t just ache for Katie as she struggled through her anxiety; I ached with her. I can’t remember the last time I felt so connected to a character. Her worries, her longing to be understood, and her unshakable love for her dog were palpable on every page. I’ll never forget Katie, her journey, or how it made me feel.
In all of Allie Larkin’s novels, she taps into the deepest, most earnest emotions even in the quirkiest of circumstances (accidentally ordering a hundred-pound German Shepherd who only understands Slovak in Stay and being mistaken for someone named Jessie and deciding to just go with it in Why Can’t I Be You). Swimming for Sunlight is no exception. Its rich exploration of long-held friendships, loss, and love highlights that even in the most trying moments, there is always light to be found. Like life itself, it blends laughter with tears and heartache with hope to create something beautiful. I could go on for days about just how wonderful this book is, but why not just read it and experience it for yourself?
If you love stories about love—love of family, love between friends, the unequivocal love of a dog, and yes, romantic love too—Swimming for Sunlight will check all of your boxes. I give it my absolute highest recommendation. I’m slightly jealous of anyone reading it for the first time, but I have the distinct feeling it will retain its magic no matter how many times I return to it.
Swimming for Sunlight is available wherever you buy your books! Pick it up at Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Amazon, or your favorite local bookseller. For more on Allie Larkin and her AMAZING novels, visit allielarkinwrites.com and follow her (and her beautiful dog, Stella!) on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.