David McGlynn’s writing draws the reader close and throughout the memoir sustains this intimate camaraderie, which makes it enjoyable yet hard read at times. His memoir revolves around grief, struggle, and perseverance, focusing on the murder of his friend, his time as an Evangelical Christian, and the comfort he finds in water and swimming. Life, as many of us know, is not easy, but for McGlynn, life dealt him a particularly tough hand.
The murder of McGlynn’s best friend and family during high school creates a ripple throughout his life, a consuming loss that shapes his future and choices as he tries to make sense out of something in which it can’t. He takes up his father and stepmother’s religion with fervor, becoming very active and studious within Evangelicalism. Though already a competitive swimmer, swimming becomes a way of life, of interacting with the world. It not only earns him a full-ride scholarship for college but gives him solace during hard times. Obstacles and doubts pave his path, yet McGlynn presses on, having faith that things will get better, even when it is religion itself that he struggles with.
At the end of his memoir, McGlynn takes a teaching job at a college in Wisconsin as an English and creative writing professor. I was in the first class of students Professor McGlynn taught. During that time, I remember hearing bits and pieces about his life but all of the details in his memoir make me feel like I am truly meeting him for the first time. His writing style is captivating as well as heart-breaking, and yet hopeful as he persists and life progresses, getting better while new worries and hardships crop up.
While the story itself is relatable and accessible, I found several similarities between his life and mine, particularly with the mission trip. Finishing the memoir makes me want to visit Wisconsin and go get a beer with him, to catch up and tell our own stories from the past. Next time I’m in the area…
Recommended?: Definitely. Besides the wonderful writing and his storytelling ability, McGlynn peppers his work with insights and commentary on life and people, religion and society. After closing the back cover, my own knowledge and view of the world had grown from these nuggets of truth that he learned through his struggles and successes.