As she rides the ferry across Lake Champlain, Troy Chance glances at a ferry headed in the opposite direction and sees something—a child’s face?—as a bundle topples from the deck into the cold water. Impulsively, she dives in and finds the bundle is, indeed, a child of about six, bundled in a tightly tied sweatshirt. It’s a long, hard swim back to shore, where oddly enough nobody has reported the boy missing. The traumatized child himself is not talking, except to murmur a couple of words in French.
Troy, who lives an independent and outdoorsy life as a freelance reporter, finds herself captivated by the fragile boy and is reluctant to take him to the authorities, fearing he may be returned to an abusive family. Instead, she uses her journalistic skills to discover he is the son of a Quebecois businessman, whose wife and child were abducted for ransom months earlier. She isn’t sure she can trust the child’s father. All she knows is that she cares too much about the child to turn back.
Though at times the plot depends on Troy taking actions that aren’t entirely rational, the depth of her attachment to a little boy who toppled into her life is brought to life on the page. Learning to Swim is a suspenseful mystery with a rich emotional texture.