Samantha and lulu sitting on an outside set of stairs.
Columbia University Library, New York City 

Discussion Starters

1. What was your initial impression of Savi? Did your impression change over the course of the novel? Why or why not?

2. How did the novel bring to life the mid-1920s? What did you learn about everyday life during this time? How was life for young women different than life now? How is life the same?

3. Did knowing the novel is based around true events and some real people impact your reading? If so, how?

4. Discuss a time in your own life when you had the rug pulled out from under you, so to speak, and talk about how you got through this.

5. Discuss Savi’s relationships with men—with her older brother, her coach, her father—as well as her hot/cold approaches to both Tad in NYC and Sol on Catalina Island.

6. Next, discuss Savi’s relationships with women—with her best friend, her sister-in-law-to-be, mother—and comment on her encounters with the other female swimmers on Catalina, particularly Bea. Discuss how the women’s relationships with each other are more (or less?) complicated than their relationships with men. Bring in your own experiences.

7. What do you think Savi’s disdain of Trudy Ederle represents? And what do you think Trudy Ederle represents in a broader thematic scope?

8. How is the act of swimming—particularly the Catalina channel swim—metaphorical? How did you feel at the end of the novel, after the big swim?

9. What is your definition of success? And failure? How do our definitions of success and failure influence the way we see the world?

10. What, in your opinion, is the significance of the title?

 For book club visitations please use contact page