Dryland. Finished 9-12-17, memoir, 242 pages, pub. 2017
Unabridged audio read by Donna Postel. 7 hours 16 minutes
For swimming champion Nancy Stearns Bercaw, the pool was a natural habitat. But on land, she could never shake the feeling of being a fish out of water. Starting at age two, Nancy devoted her life to swimming, even qualifying for the 1988 Olympic Trials in the fifty-meter freestyle event. But nearly two decades later, when she hung up her cap and goggles, she was confronted with a different kind of challenge: learning who she was out of the lanes.
In this honest, intimate memoir, Nancy reflects on her years wandering the globe, where tragic events and a lost sense of self escalate her dependence on booze. Thirty-three years after her first sip of alcohol, the swimmer comes to a stunning realization while living with her husband and son in Abu Dhabi—she’s drowning in the desert. Nancy looks to the Bedouin people for the strength to conquer one final opponent: alcohol addiction. from Goodreads
I listened to this one most of the day yesterday and finished up the last 45 pages last night before bed. I think the audio was well done and for anyone tempted to try it, I’d be happy to send you my copy of the cds.
Nancy is a competitive person who found great success in swimming, but found herself flailing a bit when that was over. She joined the Peace Corps and ended up in Kenya, then taught English in Korea before heading back to the States with a boyfriend. After weekend with a US Senator she breaks up with that boyfriend and then the Senator breaks up with her. And then she meets a man, has a child and moves to Abu Dhabi. All while consuming copious amounts of booze.
From the title I thought this would be about a woman recovering from alcoholism, but it was more alcohol travelogue than recovery story. Seeing how other cultures view alcohol compared to the US was eye opening. The exotic places made her story compelling and she knows how to turn a phrase for sure, but I didn’t really connect with Nancy. This might be because I just read another memoir about a woman battling alcohol and I found that one more engaging and real (Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell).
Caldwell has lived an exciting and nomadic life and it was good to see her come out the other side happier and sober. I think this would be encouraging to those who don’t see an end to their drinking days.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book and audio. If you are interested in either one let me know and I’ll send it on to you free of charge!
9 thoughts on “Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety by Nancy Stearns Bercaw”
As I get older, I see more and more the different forms that addiction can take. It’s a bit eye-opening.
This sounds like something I’d like.
I’d be very interested in both of these memoirs. Now I remember a memoir I read a few years ago called Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp. Her views of addictions and body issues was really eye-opening. I enjoy reading about people and how they deal with their own addictions. So much research is coming out now about seeing addiction on different steps and levels along the addiction line and finding balance. It’s so interesting to see how each person deals with it on their own. I’ll have to add these to my list!
Funny you should mention that Caroline Knapp book, Heather. The book, Let’s Take the Long Way Home, that I mentioned was written by Caroline’s best friend and is about her death in her early 40’s You should definitely pick it up. I’d send it to you but I borrowed the audio from the library.
Sounds like a good memoir. I’ll also look for Caldwell memoir!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.
I am not sure this one is for me. I have a mixed relationship with alcohol, given that both my parents struggled with alcoholism for many years. And I think I might get too annoyed with Nancy from what you’ve written in this review.