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A Door in the Ocean

A Memoir

List Price: $16.95

July 16, 2013 | Paperback | 5.7 x 8.8, 288 Pages | ISBN 9781619021631
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"In a larger sense, this is a compelling coming-of-age story, one marked by random tragedy and biblical tracts, bad church coffee and chlorine.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR

On a warm September night in 1991, in a quiet neighborhood north of Houston, Texas, David McGlynn’s closest friend and teammate on the high school swimming team is found murdered on his living room floor. As the crime goes unsolved and his friends turn to drugs and violence, McGlynn is vulnerable, rootless, searching for answers. He is drawn into the eccentric and often radical world of evangelical Christianity—a journey that leads him to a proselytizing campus fellowship in Southern California, on a mission to Australia, and to Salt Lake City, where a second swimming–related tragedy leaves him doubting the authenticity of his beliefs.

In his post–evangelical life, he finds himself exiled from his parents, plunged into financial chaos, and caught off–guard by the prospect of fatherhood. A new job offers hope for a new beginning, until the possibility of losing his newborn son forces him to confront the nature of everything he believes.

The memoir’s concluding chapter, which appeared in The Best American Sports Writing 2009, celebrates the author’s love for swimming, the enduring metaphor for his faith and the setting for many of his life’s momentous occasions. A Door in the Ocean charts the violent origins of one young man’s faith and the struggle to find meaning in the midst of life’s painful uncertainties.

About David McGlynn

DAVID MCGLYNN grew up in Houston, Texas, and Southern California. His story collection, The End of the Straight and Narrow, won the 2008 Utah Book Award and was named an “Outstanding Achievement” by the Wisconsin Librarians’ Association. His stories and essays have appeared in Men’s Health, The Huffington Post, Best American Sports Writing, and numerous literary journals. He teaches at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and sons.

A lifelong swimmer, he captured a national championship in the 500–yard freestyle at the 2001 United States Masters National Championships. He continues to compete in open–water swimming races all across the country, and on most mornings is the first one in the pool. For more information, visit


“Many of the key scenes in David McGlynn’s striking new memoir, A Door in the Ocean, take place at the beach or in swimming pools… Ocean swimming, in particular, transports McGlynn to another realm, and he does a terrific job of dramatizing the allure of solitary swims in open water…McGlynn’s writing, particularly about his long stint in the ranks of Christian fundamentalists, is alive with an insider’s knowledge of the power and comforts — and, yes, sometimes delusions — offered by collective radical belief. In a larger sense, this is a compelling coming-of-age story, one marked by random tragedy and biblical tracts, bad church coffee and chlorine.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR

“McGlynn is an astute observer of relationships, and proffers insightful commentary on the power of memory to simultaneously burden and enrich the present. Beyond that, the sheer ease of his prose and the honesty of his journey are enough to keep readers moved and moving.” —Publishers Weekly

“The death of his friend is actually only the introduction of this big-hearted memoir, but it establishes two key elements that are crucial: McGlynn’s experience as a swimmer and an evangelical Christian. He writes eloquently about both, and offers keen insight into the worlds of each… What makes it a winner is its language and beauty.” —Dallas Morning News

“David McGlynn wrestles with some of the same fierce angels that haunted his debut collection of short stories… Both books bear the mark of a serious craftsman; their paragraphs hold the reader with lyric and narrative power… McGlynn trades glorious and sorrowful mysteries for an adult and hard-won faith in God’s merciful habit of keeping us afloat, even when the worst that can happen happens, as in every life it does.” —Thomas Lynch, Christian Century

“David McGlynn writes with the urgency of a true believer and the poignancy of a man who has struggled with belief. A Door in the Ocean is a gripping memoir of family, friendship, and the longing for connection that both faith and competition can bring.” —Peter Manseau, author of Vows

A Door in the Ocean is a stunningly heartfelt journey of one young man coming to terms with family and faith through loss, tragedy, and hardship.” —James Brown, author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River

“From its first page, A Door in the Ocean carries you like a rip tide. You don’t read this memoir, you live it. McGlynn is a keen storyteller, and his coming of age tale takes age-old human experiences—traumatic violence, inexplicable evil, sex, and religion—and remixes them into an intimate and compelling tale. Just remember to stop and breathe as you turn the pages.” —Janna Malamud Smith, author of My Father is a Book

“From swimming to surfing, from mystery to murder, from zealotry to simple faith, David McGlynn’s memoir packs in a stunning array of vibrant experience as its author makes his way from adolescence to adulthood. The writing is clean and swift, and though I had intended to meander through A Door in the Ocean at my leisure, ultimately I found I could not. I had to swallow David McGlynn’s powerhouse of a story whole.” —Linda Gray Sexton, author of Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide and Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton

“David McGlynn’s spiritual testament offers an antidote to the dogmatic forms of religion, and to the dogmatic assaults on religion, that cause so much strife in our day. He traces his search for a sustaining belief through a history of losses and recoveries, estrangement and reconciliation, all eloquently told. Still young in years, he possesses an elder’s insight into the price of faith that’s rooted in fear, and the promise of faith that’s rooted in love. His honesty is disarming, his prose compelling.” —Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works and A Private History of Awe

“A good memoir keeps you up all night; a fine one clarifies your vision; a great one breaks your heart and changes your life forever. This exquisite new book by David McGlynn does it all.” —Paula Huston, author of The Holy Way and Simplifying Your Soul

“In A Door In the Ocean, David McGlynn writes beautifully about struggling to reconcile his youthful desires with the demands of a faith that may be too strict for his searching, disquieted heart. Anyone who has ever experienced the same will be very grateful to McGlynn for his confessions, which are written with an interrogating honesty that can accommodate reverence—which is an uncommon, and very welcome, sound.” —Carlene Bauer, author of Not That Kind of Girl

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