Book Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

After the first season of her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

Last month, I did a review on “My Dark Vanessa” by Kate Elizabeth Russell.  The story is about a fifteen-year-old girl who struck a twisted relationship with her forty-two-year-old English teacher exposing a corrupted tale of “child grooming,” rape versus consent, and the victim’s blind acceptance of predatory trickery as normal. 

(See my review of My Dark Vanessa here.)

Similarly, “The Night Swim” by Megan Goldin takes on a narrative that sheds light on the impact of rape culture.  Both novels illustrate how rape is examined from different perspectives.  But while “My Dark Vanessa” explores the forces at work in a predatory relationship, “The Night Swim” exposes why rape victims prefer silence over the feeling of shame and the devastating effects of what victim-blaming does to them.

Goldin’s third thriller is told in two different perspectives: Hannah’s and Rachel’s.  Together, they seek to connect the link between a present-day rape trial and the mysterious death of Hannah’s sister that happened twenty-five years ago. 

It is easy to dismiss this novel as just another thriller, but Goldin’s writing style is straightforward. However, one can’t help but gush over her vibrant use of imagery heightened by a perfect atmospheric setting. The incensed tone in Goldin’s writing was too palpable that I became quite emotional while pondering over some scenes.  Readers can immediately sense the author’s vindictive tone and yet, Goldin was able to graph both sides — laying the groundwork why very few rape cases have been prosecuted and why most female victims were blamed instead. 

Goldin’s writing shows how well-researched the novel is. Most scenes took me within the four walls of a courtroom. I wept angry tears for a reasonable amount of time, which was a result of having listened to its amazing audiobook narration. The chapters on Rachel’s true-crime podcast made the experience more moving and relevant.  Readers are in for a treat not just by how thrilling the plot is despite its slow reveal, but what the novel aspires to become. The trial scenes provided an insight into how rape victims have struggled to defend themselves; how survivors were re-traumatized by narrating the horrific events to the public. She described in detail how rape prosecutions have failed and why victim-blaming usually ends with the victims choosing to remain quiet. Goldin’s message is clear.  This unethical culture needs to stop. No means no. There is no thin line between rape and consent. Sexually abused women must no longer be silenced. Provocative materials such as this book meant to raise awareness to lift the stigma that so often encompasses sexual violence must be fostered.

To read this book as a thriller is to see only the thin edge of the wedge. There is no more excellent feeling of accomplishment than to be able to create something that sends a message of truth.  “The Night Swim” accomplishes that and more. It may not be the edge-of-your-seat kind of thriller, but it sure brought into sharper focus relevant issues surrounding rape and sexual assault.  The social impact of this book is intensely sharp.  It pushes the readers to understand that these violations are happening. “The Night Swim” speaks to all of us. At one point, we may have committed the act of victim-blaming one way or the other and it’s high time we change our views.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Megan Goldin

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: Published August 4th 2020 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN-10: 125021968X 

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