Secrets of a River Swimmer
Secrets of a River Swimmer
by S.S. Turner
GENRE: Literary Fiction
As Freddy gazes at the majestic river gushing past him in the depths of a Scottish winter, he's ready to jump in and end his life. But what happens next is not what Freddy expects. From the moment he enters the river, Freddy starts a journey which is more beautiful, funny, and mysterious than he could have imagined. And through this journey Freddy's story becomes interweaved with a cast of unforgettable characters who are equally lost and in search of answers. Eventually they all unite in their quest for an answer to the biggest question of them all: will the river take them where they want to go?
In the tradition of inspirational works of fiction like The Alchemist and Life of Pi, Secrets of a River Swimmer is at once a profound exploration into living with meaning and an affecting story of people on the cusp of change.
From Page 7
I dip my toe in.
It’s fucking freezing.
I sit and watch the majestically sinister Scottish river hurtle along below me. I’m not sure whether to be in awe or terrified, but that was always going to be the case today, my last day. The idea of jumping into the river reminds me of the feeling you experience when you arrive at the beach, and you’re thinking about jumping into the sea, but you know it’s going to cause you grievous bodily harm from your nether regions up. For some reason, your legs are the one part of your body which can handle intense cold without too much stress. But all body parts above your legs are a whole different story. My voice just rose an octave, and I’m not even talking.
So you sit and watch the sea while contemplating your next move, as if this thinking time will give you the required mental strength to leap into the cold blue water. However, this thinking time just gives the water an opportunity to look you in the eye with laughing menace, because the water knows the questions you are grappling with deep in your soul. The water understands it is strong and you are weak—the eternal power imbalance at play.
The waiting period only makes it worse, of course. All it does is allow you to hand more mental power over to the cold water than a short and simple jumping-in maneuver would have done. Why do we employ such counter-productive strategies in our lives?
About the Author:
S.S. Turner has been an avid reader, writer, and explorer of the natural world throughout his life which has been spent in England, Scotland and Australia. Just like Freddy in his first novel, Secrets of a River Swimmer, he worked in the global fund management sector for many years but realized it didn't align with his values. In recent years, he's been focused on inspiring positive change through his writing as well as trying not to laugh in unfortunate situations. He now lives in Australia with his wife, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and ten chickens.
Q&A With the Author
Any weird things you do when you’re alone?
I go stand up paddle boarding on a local lake most weekends. I love it there because it’s stunning and there are literally no people around. I often take advantage of that glorious space by singing loudly (and badly!) as I paddle board across the lake. A few times the local pelicans have made their disdain for my poor singing obvious by turning their beaks up when they hear it.
What is your favorite quote and why?
“Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.”
― Mark Twain
I love this quote because I believe in being kind to others and doing the right thing. It’s such a powerful strategy in a world in which love and kindness can appear scarce. Many people are genuinely shocked when someone behaves with kindness towards them for no reason these days.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Mark Twain. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is my all-time favorite novel because no matter how many times I read it I have a different experience of the story. Twain’s ability to get inside his characters’ heads to beautifully express their emotions, motives, and real thoughts is so powerful. For me, this is the timeless beauty of writing, and it means we can all be transported back one hundred and forty years ago to when the novel is set to discover that people haven’t changed at all. I’m sure I’ve met many modern versions of the duke and the king in the corporate world!
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
In my opinion, good writing is writing which inspires the reader to continue all the way through to the end of the story. And great writing is a writing which readers can’t put down because they desperately need to know what happens by the end. Great writing is a form of alchemy which is hard to break down into a simple formula, but I generally love books with strong characters, as well as an underlying story which moves forward in an interesting direction. I’m also a fan of novels with only one narrator as I find multiple narrators can weaken the readers’ connection with the story. I’ve only read a small number of truly great books throughout my life.
Where did you get the idea for this book?
This book was inspired by my own Scottish river swimming adventures which provided me with clarity and guidance when I was particularly lost.
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