Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Underwater Window by Dan Stephenson

The Underwater Window by Dan Stephenson
Published June 2012 by Watermark
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for this review

Once upon a time, Doyle Wilson had dreams of Olympic gold. At 24 years old, and with younger swimmers passing him up in most of what used to be "his" events, Doyle knows he only has one last chance. The question is, should he take it? Is he willing to give up medical school or the opportunity to coach at the college level? Is he willing to continue to give up the things most people take for granted - a relationship, a day without pain, hair that isn't green?

His friend and rival, Hunter "Archie" Hayes, the world's greatest swimmer (think Michael Phelps here), everything comes easy. But Archie is beginning to chafe under the pressure and Doyle knows that if he puts in one more year, he can help Archie and maybe, just maybe, he can, just once, beat Archie.

Why I Read It:
If you've been reading this blog for long, you've heard me talk about Caitlin Hamilton Summie, who does the publicity for Unbridled Books most often. Caitlin also owns her own publicity company. Not long ago I told you about how she "gets" me. She knows I love swimming and she knows I love the Olympics. So when a book came to her about an elite swimmer working to make his way to the Olympics, she thought of me. And I, of course, jumped at the chance to read it.

What I Liked:
While none of my kids ever came remotely close to swimming at this level, they did swim competitively so when Stephenson writes about sets, times, workouts, dry land, and life as a competitive swimmer I am immediately taken back to those days. In reviews, I sometimes write that an author knows what he or she is talking about. For Stephenson, this is much more than merely knowing what he's talking about, he's lived it.

At the beginning of each chapter, Stephenson uses reflections on swimming to illustrate how if reflects or impacts life outside of the pool and some of these worked really well.  The relationships between the swimmers ring true. Teammates are both rivals and the only friends a competitive swimmer has time for. In Doyle Stephenson has created a character who examines everything microscopically, who has to work even harder than others to get where he wants to be, but who is able to avoid the spotlight and the pressure it entails. In Archie, we see the other end of the spectrum (which is not to say, of course, that Archie is not working harder than any of us could imagine!) and it's a nice balance.

What Didn't Work For Me:
As much as I did appreciate the details, there were just too many of them. Fans may enjoy getting the details of every workout and every race, non-swimming readers will probably begin to do a lot of skimming. The relationship between Doyle and his maybe-girlfriend didn't work for me; I didn't buy the back story that allowed her not to care so much about Doyle's unwillingness to commit.

There were two ways this book could end. I was glad that Stephenson choose to go the way he did. As much as I started to hope for it to end differently.

Photo Credit: Cover Copyright 2012 Ginny Glass and Untreed Reads Publishing


  1. I like the premise of this book. I am not much of a swimmer, although my niece is a competitive diver at the university she attends.

  2. It does sound very interesting. I know next to nothing about swimming but yet it's one of my favorite olympic sports to watch.