Book Review: An awe-inspiring story down a rabbit hole much like Alice’s, but it’s a river; a fantastical ride downstream.

Secrets of a River Swimmer by S.S. Turner

When Freddy realizes his job, his life, his purpose is inauthentic he decides the only escape is the ultimate escape of death. So he jumps into a river… in Scotland…in winter.

Freddy’s inner monologue of how fast the hyperthermia will set in, is comical yet heart breaking. The first chapters really set the stage of Freddy’s mental vulnerabilities. The metaphorical rabbit hole he dives into and the perspective of being a fish in this particular river is mind-opening and very Wonderlandesque.

His journey in this river brings him to meet wonderful people who in their own lives need healing and redirection. It absolutely divulges that everyone has “those” thoughts, but finds a way to not follow them even in their darkest moments.

It bravely talks about depression and suicide by not hiding behind societal taboos but by bringing the discussion out in the open. Ultimately it’s main message is of hope. That we are all not alone in our despair. Even as Pollyanna as it may seem, finding a new purpose can make the difference of wanting to die or wanting to carry on. By finding yourself by trying to help others yet having the courage to say no when helping others betrays yourself. It’s all wrapped up in this inspiring tale of a journey down this river.

It is poignantly significant during these Covid times, when this pandemic has us reevaluating our purpose in our lives. Author Turner provides the right amount of quirky humor to alleviate the awkwardness when the protagonist’s journey makes the reader dive deep into self reflection.

This is an amazing story full of heart break, full of hope, and ultimately full of inspiration.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Once the judgment has happened, it’s game over for most relationships at a subconscious level, as the judger tends to focus on what they don’t like about the judged person.”

“Keep thinking relaxing thoughts is all I can tell myself amidst this most unrelaxing pain.”

“I’m running away from the person who saved me from certain death to return to my life of escaping from my life.”

“Until you learn to navigate the unknown, you’ll be forever lost.”

“We’re all the same, and we’re all struggling with the same things. And yet, through our suffering we all feel alone and separate from one another. It seems so simple. All we need to do is connect with one another to share the pain, to lighten the load. Why aren’t we all doing this?”

From the publisher, The Story Plant:

As Freddy gazes at the majestic river gushing past him in the depths of a Scottish winter, he’s ready to jump in and end his life. But what happens next is not what Freddy expects. From the moment he enters the river, Freddy starts a journey which is more beautiful, funny, and mysterious than he could have imagined. And through this journey Freddy’s story becomes interweaved with a cast of unforgettable characters who are equally lost and in search of answers. Eventually they all unite in their quest for an answer to the biggest question of them all: will the river take them where they want to go?

In the tradition of inspirational works of fiction like The Alchemist and Life of Pi, Secrets of a River Swimmer is at once a profound exploration into living with meaning and an affecting story of people on the cusp of change.

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