When Laura Flynn was a little girl, her beautiful, dynamic mother was the center of her imagination. Sally Flynn engaged her three daughters in rounds of elaborate games and felt great maternal joy at their smallest accomplishments. It wasn’t long, however, before Sally’s fun-loving side became slowly and methodically absorbed by madness. Whether it was accusing Laura’s father of trying to win her over to the side of Satan, or buying only certain products that were evil-free, glimmers of her mother’s future paranoia grew brighter as Laura’s early years passed. But as her parents divorced and her father struggled to gain custody, these symptoms bloomed in earnest, and the three girls united in flights of fancy of the sort their mother taught them so that they might deflect the danger threatening their fragile family.
Set in 1970s San Francisco, Swallow the Ocean is redolent with place. In luminous prose, this memoir paints a most intimate portrait of what might have been a catastrophic childhood had Laura and her sisters not been resilient and determined enough to survive their environment even as they yearned to escape it.