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Swallow the Ocean

A Memoir

List Price: $16.95

February 1, 2009 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.3, 288 Pages | ISBN 9781582434612
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"[S]killed and lyrical." —Washington Post

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.

LAURA FLYNN, a native of San Francisco, currently teaches writing at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where she lives with her husband.


“[S]killed and lyrical.” —Washington Post

“[A] heartbreaking page-turner.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Swallow the Ocean will swallow you whole then wash over you with love. It is a beautifully written memoir of a girl’s, then a woman’s desire, and need, to connect with a mother who continues to slip further and further away. Poetic and masterful, this is a memoir you won’t soon forget.” —Edwidge Danticat, author of Brother, I’m Dying

“Laura Flynn’s Swallow the Ocean is an unforgettable memoir about growing up in the care of a schizophrenic mother. It is also about enchantment. Beautifully written, the book gains force and momentum in its depiction of an ongoing childhood nightmare that seems, to those experiencing it, almost ordinary. It demonstrates how resilient children can be, how a milieu can shape a child, and how wonderful the ‘normal’ can appear to be to a child who has been excluded from it.” —Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love 

“A remarkable accomplishment—-this family tragedy that refuses to be tragic, unfolding with novelistic power and the dignity of faithful documentation. Laura Flynn has given us an indispensable memoir, luminous and strangely heartening, a work of consummate grace and hard-won buoyancy. It’s a triumph of spirit and a mesmerizing read.” —Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist’s Daughter

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