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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

The Night Swim, Megan Goldin: A Review

The blurb, title, and cover really caught my attention for this one. I was pleased to receive an eARC from St. Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.

The Night Swim is, hands down, the best book I've read so far this year.

When a famous podcaster comes to the small town of Neapolis to cover the live trial of a controversial rape case, she is thrown into another mystery. Mysterious letters, emails, and cryptic messages lead Rachel down the rabbit hole of a decades-old case involving the death of a young girl.

For me, everything about this book worked. Separated into letters from Hannah, the sister desperate to prove her sister's death was more than an unfortunate accident, Rachel's experience in Neapolis, and several podcast segments where we get the presentation of facts and observations, we get to experience the events from all angles, all perspectives, evaluate the evidence, and form our own opinions.

Utterly unput-downable.

What struck me most was Goldin's brilliant, fearless, and insightful handling of the topic of rate. So often discourse focuses on blame. Guilt. And, yes, there is definitely that aspect in The Night Swim, but it is so much more. It's a conversation on society's stereotypes of rape victims. It's a dialogue about not just the trauma victims face in the moment, but also the continuing trauma they're forced to endure after. Anyone who's seen a procedural is familiar with what happens after a victim reports a rape. This is not brand new information, a point I can't stress enough. We know these things, we understand these things, but we've become numb to these things--and Goldin isn't afraid to remind us that rape is much more than he said, she said. It's people, and communities, and catastrophe that ripples through lives and years.

Goldin doesn't shy away from details. She takes the readers through the painstakingly broken down process, from witness to testimony, to personal statements, evidence collection, and pressing charges. We see not only the emotional and physical toll the crime takes on the victim, but the lives of everyone around her. The accuser. The accuser's family. The town. The national stage where Rachel's audience is captivated and polarized.

It's exhausting and necessary and incredibly relevant.

The parallels raised between the old case and the new case drive home the importance of this dialogue. Things haven't changed in Neapolis, but have they really changed in the world? Archaic systems, unabashed judgment, grudges held through generations, the ramifications such a crime takes on all involved. This book is full of fallout and closure, devastation and redemption. What it is not full of is sugar coating or timidity.

Reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird in a modern timeline, I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, with a trigger warning about sensitive material and rape scenarios.


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