Maureen Gibbon’s novel, Swimming Sweet Arrow, is something of a surprise. The first surprise might be the very graphic sex. But the second surprise will most definitely be how affecting the novel’s narrator, 18 year old Vangie is.
“When I was eighteen, I went parking with my boyfriend Del, my best friend June, and her boyfriend Del. What I mean is that June fucked Ray and I fucked Del in the same car, at the same time.”
Gibbon establishes Vangie’s voice- at once innocent and experienced- from the novel’s opening lines and from that moment on it’s hard to stop turning the pages as a year in Vangie’s life unfolds.
Vangie graduates from high school, moves in with Del, parties incessantly and slowly begins climbing out of her youth and into her adulthood. The success of the book is the way in which Gibbon writes Vangie, a character who never shies away from who she is or what she wants. And even when she makes horrible mistakes in judgment, Vangie never passes the buck. Despite the subject matter, which might be potentially too-graphic for some, Vangie’s search for meaning, for love, and for a place to belong is a thing of beauty.