Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Finished: "A Door in the Ocean" by David McGlynn

Finished: A Door in the Ocean by David McGlynn, 2012, 9781582438290.

Committee book.  Memoir.  This is not the type of book I usually read.  I credit the author's skill and talent at keeping me interested and engaged.

Short version:

High school swimmer in Houston has a blended family and wants to move to California with his dad.  Swimmer has best pal and they are together for two swim team practices a day, almost every school class, most spare time.  Best pal is murdered in his own home along with his brother and father in an execution murder.

Swimmer is traumatized.  Swimmer turns to evangelical religion.  Swimmer copes for years.  Swimmer ends up in Wisconsin and worries about water damage to his 60-year-old home up around Appleton.  Reader laughs at Swimmer's water worries.  Reader starts worrying about his own home's foundation, again.  Reader thinks about the porous brick used for part of the 120 year old foundation.   Reader then starts thinking about his home's crap insulation.

Thankfully Swimmer ends the story before he has to make a really expensive home repair and send Reader into a tizzy.  Reader is glad that when his toilet's wax seal started leaking that the sewer stack did not crack upon repair like Swimmer's toilet did and that Reader did not have to call, and pay, a plumber.

Long version:
Much more interesting than I expected and quite different than I was led to believe.  I thought this was a story about a guy's lifelong swimming with some philosophical treatise on meditation and exercise and open water swimming.

No, this is McGlynn's best pal getting murdered.  This is McGlynn turning to religion as a salve and protection from violence.  McGlynn's pal was a normal suburban kid.  The murder goes unsolved and unexplained.  The murder happens a couple blocks away.  The murder happens 15 minutes after McGlynn and his pal chatted on the phone.  The murder happens right before McGlynn's sister is dropped off by his pal's mom and the mom goes home to find her murdered family.

McGlynn devotes himself to evangelical Christianity while knowing he never really fits.  He promises himself to the cause and connects that promise to protection.  That McGlynn's parents partly broke up over religion is a big part of this.  McGlynn is 14 at the time of the murder and McGlynn's father and new stepmother are very religious.  Joining the church and following evangelical believes is a key part of McGlynn staying close to his father.

McGlynn sticks to swimming.  He has a scholarship to UC-Santa Cruz (I think it was Santa Cruz) and devotes four years to classwork, teammates, and bible study groups.  He does not date much.  He has little money.  He spends a couple months in Australia as a missionary but knows it is not for him.  McGlynn does not have the boldfaced personality to walk up to a stranger and start talking up Jesus.

McGlynn talks frankly and freely about sexual abstinence.  His pledge to "remain pure" until marriage lasts into his mid-twenties and grad school in Utah.  That purity promise dogs him mentally and he takes a few years to reevaluate the church's teachings and beliefs (example: no Disney because they have a gay day at DisneyLand).  McGlynn meets his wife at a pool and they end up switching churches - which means switching lifestyles and social contacts.  Switching churches also means rejecting his stepmother's strong beliefs.

The abstinence talk is impressive for McGlynn's truthfulness and sincerity about a very private issue.  The importance of sexuality and desire are buried away.  Kids - even college kids - acknowledge these desires and talk to each other about them.  They also watch each other to make sure the vows are not broken.  In Australia the missionaries all live together and supervise the behavior of paired-off couples.  McGlynn talks about his Mormon undergrads.  Students who meet in the first day of class and are married by Thanksgiving.  How the Mormon kids have abstained, abstained, abstained and then they bolt into marriage at the first chance.

Trauma hits everyone differently.  Everyone recovers differently.

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