Victimhood in the age of modern media: A review of The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

My copy of The Night Swim next to a cup of tea and a pair of fuzzy socks.

I don’t know about you, but I find thrillers and mysteries to be some of the the hardest reviews for me to write. While I generally try to leave out spoilers for any book, I always get anxious that I’m going to accidentally spoil something! And when it comes to this genre, I feel it is vital not to do so, as it can totally ruin the book. So I’ll try to be somewhat vague with this review of The Night Swim as to not ruin anything, but hopefully give you just enough that you’ll decide to pick up this awesome thriller!

Quick Synopsis: Rachel Krall, a famous true-crime podcaster, is in the small town of Neapolis covering a high-profile rape case between the former sheriff’s granddaughter and a the town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for the Olympics. When Rachel finds a series of mysterious letters addressed to her begging for her help in solving a decades-old case in the same town — that of Jenny Stills, who tragically drowned, yet whose sister Hannah is convinced was murdered. The more Rachel asks questions, the more roadblocks she faces, as she realizes these two cases may be more intertwined than formerly thought.

This book had me hooked right from the start. I think my natural curiosity and career in journalism made me really connect with Rachel, who started as a reporter before becoming a podcaster. However, I admire her for her risk taking and willingness to do anything to find the story, since I don’t think I could be that brave in the face of a potential murder like she can!

I also enjoyed how this story moved back and forth between past and present, but in a somewhat unique and nontraditional way. The “past” sections, told from Hannah’s point of view (she’s the sister of Jenny Stills, who Hannah believes was murdered and didn’t just drown) are written in letter form, as Hannah continues to leave messages for Rachel, slowly but surely piecing together the mystery.

Most importantly, I found this novel to be a really interesting observation of how rape and sexual assault victims are treated in the media. In an age after the Me Too era and the devastating results of the Brock Turner case, this story was both a criticism and an analysis of how victims are treated in the media — while they do garner support, they also face a lot of harsh criticism, scrutiny, and judgment. This book really forced me to think, Why are rape victims the only victims that have to prove they’re not lying? Why do they bear the burden of proof? In the age of modern media, I think it both acts as a blessing and a curse for victims.

While I consider most thrillers to just be good, solid, and fun reads, this one was also incredibly thought-provoking, too. I definitely had my guesses as to who did it and was totally wrong, so that was a plus, as well. I definitely can’t believe that this one didn’t make the top five picks for Book of the Month’s Book of the Year finalists!