The Underwater Window: A Novel by Dan Stephenson (Watermark, $13.99, 362 pages)
“Glory days, well they’ll pass you by/ Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye.” Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days” from Born in the USA (1984)
The Underwater Window is the tale of a swimmer’s quest for Olympic glory. Doyle is an elite athlete by most standards but marginal by Olympic performance standards. As a team leader, he must harness the U.S. swimming team’s energy and babysit the American star, Archie, throughout the Olympic trials and, eventually, in France during the Olympics.
The dichotomy between the two males makes for interesting reading. Archie is the naturally gifted, occasionally undisciplined star. Doyle is the always-dependable rock, a guy who must milk every single ounce of talent out of his body in order to compete with the elite athletes.
Like all athletes, Doyle faces the inevitable. He must come to grips with the eventual end of a career. As a medical school candidate, he deliberates between enrolling in medical school or continuing to pursue his Olympic dream. Author Dan Stephenson handles this dilemma satisfactorily, but as this is the seminal moment for any athlete, he might have done well to dig a little deeper.
Throughout the story, Doyle also contemplates his relationship with his longtime quasi girlfriend Molly, a cerebral sort with selective attractiveness, versus the temptation offered by his bombshell swimming team partner, Camille Cognac. The passages involving Molly flow naturally, but the scenes involving Camille come across as a bit forced.
The introduction to each chapter is a snippet on reflections about the main character’s thoughts regarding his relationship to the sport of swimming. Usually, these vignettes bear some connection to the forthcoming events. Some work better than others. They don’t detract from the story, but some add more value than others.
In the end, Doyle does qualify for the Olympics. For him to win a gold medal would unrealistically taint and discredit the integrity of the novel. However, the ending satisfies. Overall, this book is a good one for general audiences, not just for swimming fanatics. There’s a little something here for everybody, and the story clearly has more positives than negatives.
A review copy was received from a publicist. The Underwater Window is also available as a Kindle Edition or Nook Book download.