Night Swim begins with a flash forward to present day California, showing Sarah Kunitz alone in her home, her children grown and her husband away on business. She receives an e-mail from the boy she grew up living beside, a boy she kissed under a broken pool table in her basement. Quickly, the story shifts back.



Mickey Fineburg’s email brings everything back again.

Hi, Sarah. Remembering those good ‘ol days in the neighborhood. Saw your CDs online. Sampled the links. Wow! Impressive. How did you end up in California?

I kissed Mickey under a broken pool table in my basement. We were eight, his lips warm as play dough, pressing with earnest intention. I pressed back, happy and unafraid, oblivious to Mickey’s younger brother watching us. That night at the dinner table Mother looked stern and surprised. She said: Mickey’s mother called me. You’re too young to start, Sarah.

Start what? I wondered.

It’s the New Year (with all good wishes to TNB readers), so let’s talk about fresh starts. When and where did you begin writing Night Swim, your debut novel? What were the circumstances?

Geographically, I was living in Atlanta, GA. Chronologically, it was early 1990s. Developmentally—and that’s really the point of your question—I was at a breaking point. My husband and I were shifting things in our life—feeling restless, unable to get pregnant, renovating our house, trying to adopt a baby, trying to change something essential that we couldn’t quite articulate. We had tried for five or so years to get pregnant and it wasn’t happening. Adopting seemed even more impossible. My first novel (Body Chemistry) hadn’t sold—a devastating disappointment. I was battling invisible viruses of depression and failure. I think renovating the house was my way of trying to gain control of uncontrollable feelings, my way of attacking chaos and feelings of inadequacy as a writer and un-pregnant woman.