top of page

Swimming with Ghosts

Turner Publishing/Keylight Books

It’s June 2012 at the magical and slightly cultish River Run swim club when a perfect storm brews between team moms and best friends, Gillian Cloud and Kristy Weinstein. The ghost of family addiction has turned up, looming over their carefully planned pasta parties, tie-dye nights, and pep rallies, forcing them to face their unresolved childhood trauma. Gillian responds by trying to control everyone around her, and Kristy relapses into her dangerous addiction to love. Real sparks fly the night the derecho—a freak land hurricane—sweeps through Northern Virginia, knocking out power for days. The storm sets fire to a tinder box of secrets, leaving Gillian and Kristy alone in the hot dark, their only company their shame.


In the vein of Little Fires Everywhere, the characters in Swimming with Ghosts discover that sometimes ashes make the best fertilizer for planting new fields and that they have the power to dodge the history they fear they are doomed to repeat. At times satirical, this book club novel captures the ethos and the ruin of any children’s competitive sport or activity where parents work out their demons and in turn lose their way.


"I really enjoyed Swimming with Ghosts, for the excellent characters, unusual plot inside the world of local competitive swimming, the fine writing, and the frequent insights and humor. I raced right through it."

-ANNE LAMOTT, author of Bird by Bird

"In this page-turner of a tale, Michelle Brafman leads the reader into the deeper waters of deception, loss, and self-destructive obsession. This is a story that creeps up on you and then holds fast.  It will stay with me for a long time to come."

-MARY MORRIS, author of Gateway to the Moon

"It’s summer and as closest friendships go under and family secrets surface, a storm may be coming for Gillian Cloud and her picture-perfect swim club community. Michelle Brafman is such a sharp observer of suburban life and Gillian, and #bestie Kristy, are a deliciously written, female friendship. So compelling, I snuck out of bed at night to finish it. Dive in!"

- HELEN SIMONSON, NYT best-selling author of The Summer Before the War

“A gripping family drama, SWIMMING WITH GHOSTS is as suspenseful as it is sensitively wrought.”

—Annie Berke, Washington City Paper


“SWIMMING WITH GHOSTS…offers a summer read that tackles serious issues while also seeking to deliver a highly readable, page-turning story.”

—Ellen Braunstein, The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle


“This is the book that you can really take to the beach, sit in your chair, and dive all the way in!”

—Amy Impellizzeri, WHMT-TV’s “Good Day PA” (Harrisburg)


“Brafman’s third novel, Swimming with Ghosts, is a page turner. . .The intensity of their involvement in this competitive and recreational activity turns into a serious exploration of friendship, addiction, and what is truly meaningful in life.”

—Martha Anne Toll, Bloom


“I loved it so much!  Out of this seemingly small world [Brafman] created a story with such heft and consequence; it has an almost epic quality--brava!”

—Yona Zeldis McDonough, Lilith

"Swimming With Ghosts dives into the world of children’s competitive swimming with sharp observations and an abundance of empathy. . .Moving perfectly between humor and darkness, Michelle Brafman delivers a delicious and compelling book about jealousy, addiction, and legacy."

- JENNIFER CLOSE, NYT best-selling author of Marrying the Ketchups 

Swimming with Ghosts is a story about ripple effects and the lies we tell ourselves in our most valiant, human, futile attempts to escape our own histories. This is my favorite kind of novel: a page-turner about love and secrets, honor and betrayal, and all the messiness of families and legacies. 

-LAUREN FOX, NYT best-selling author of Send for Me

Swimmers and readers rejoice! Michelle Brafman’s Swimming with Ghosts is proof that the most important events in life happen at the pool. Fast-paced and frequently hilarious, we unsuspectingly float on the novel’s wry, quirky humor until we’re suddenly over deep water, gazing into the depths of our need for purpose, friendship, and love. Anyone heading to a pool or beach this summer should have a copy of Swimming with Ghosts in their swim bag.  

- DAVID MCGLYNN, author of A Door in the Ocean 

I devoured Michelle Brafman’s latest book Swimming with Ghosts in a single day, tearing through one unputdownable chapter to the next. A perfect book club pick, Brafman writes with loving sensitivity and humor about two close friends, their families, and the secrets that join them together

 - BETHANY BALL, author of The Pessimists 

"Beneath the surface of Michelle Brafman’s propulsive Swimming with Ghosts, with its delightful humor and sharp observations of suburban mores, swirl dark undercurrents. . .With open eyes and extraordinary compassion, Brafman tackles the shame of love addiction, illuminating its links to other addictions and what true recovery entails." 

- LISA GORNICK, author of The Peacock Feast  

“Michelle Brafman deftly peels back the layers of suburbia, revealing an unforgettable summer that’s part Peyton Place, part American Beauty, with a hint of David Lynch.  Competitive youth sports is a world that drives some of the best over the edge. Yet it can also heal old wounds.”

- TIM WENDEL,  author of Escape from Castro’s Cuba 

bottom of page