A woman must leave her island home to search for her missing sister - and confront the haunted history of her family.
Magdalena does not panic when she learns that her younger sister, Jadranka, has disappeared. But when weeks pass with no word, Magdalena leaves the isolated Croatian island where their family has always lived and sets off for New York to find her sister. her search begins to unspool the dark history of their family , reaching back three generations to a country torn by war.
Magdalena and Jadranka were raised on the island of Rosmina by their grandparents, knowing little about the family members who had moved to the mainland or emigrated to America.
For Magdalena, Rosmina is home, the place she loves and never wants to leave. Jadranka has a more restless spirit and frequently comes and goes but never fails to stay in contact with her sister. Her last journey took her to New York where she stayed with cousin Katarina until her mysterious disappearance.
I don't recall ever reading a book set in Croatia before and loved the beautiful descriptions of the island, the people's close connection with the sea and the traditional way of life. The story spans the years from WWII, through Tito's regime and the civil war - years of hardship and suffering which took it's toll on Magdalena's family and left dark secrets buried in its wake.
Secrets that are slowly revealed as different narrators share their stories. Confusing at times as the narrative often jumps between people and time periods with little warning.
The First Rule of Swimming is a quiet and rather slow moving story of love and loss and the bonds that tie people to family and homeland. Of those who prefer to stay in the security of the dear and familiar and those who find it confining and restrictive and choose, or are forced , to leave.
Not for those who like action and a strong plot but I enjoyed the gentle pace and evocative writing very much.
Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.