One of Buzzfeed’s “7 coming-of-age tales to pick up this April” (Berkley/April 2018)
Tacker Hart left his home in North Carolina as a local high school football hero, but returns in disgrace after being fired from a prestigious architectural assignment in West Africa. Yet the culture and people he grew to admire have left their mark on him. Adrift, he manages his father’s grocery store and becomes reacquainted with a girl he barely knew growing up.
Kate Monroe’s parents have died, leaving her the family home and the right connections in her Southern town. But a trove of disturbing letters sends her searching for the truth behind the comfortable life she’s been bequeathed.
On the same morning but at different moments, Tacker and Kate encounter a young African-American, Gaines Townson, and their stories converge with his. As Winston-Salem is pulled into the tumultuous 1960s, these three Americans find themselves at the center of the civil rights struggle, coming to terms with the legacies of their pasts as they search for an ennobling future.
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Praise for Swimming Between Worlds
“A perceptive and powerful story told with generosity and grace. The struggle of its deftly-drawn young characters to navigate the monumental changes—cultural and personal—that the civil rights movement brought to the South is rich and compelling.”— New York Times bestselling author Charles Frazier
“A smart and tender tale. I was left with admiration for Orr’s exquisite prose along with an awareness of one simple truth: sometimes it takes living in another culture to better understand your own. A beautiful book.”—Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author of The Stolen Marriage
“An original and important novel certain to take its place in American literature on race. The narrative unfolds with urgency and power, in graceful prose rich in sensuous detail. [Orr’s] finest work to date.”—Angela Davis-Gardner, author of Plum Wine
“A blistering story told by a gifted writer. From the moment I began this compelling novel, it followed me around; the riveting plot and real-life characters would not let me go.” —Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August
“Orr brings the South and Nigeria together in a manner that illuminates the richness and privations of both cultures. As ever, her writing is lush and sensuous. This poignant and triumphant story shows two Americans emerging in a complex time from their own sorrow and displacement to take on political unrest and the turmoils of love.”—Peggy Payne, author of Sister India
“A touching love story…. [and an] intelligently written and vivid evocation of a civil rights struggle that has heartbreaking relevance to the here and now. You will experience in these pages the physical and emotional bravery of the men and women who dared to push the boundaries of what was seemingly immutable.” –Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell from the Sky
“Poignant and agonizing, the novel captures the South the moment before the gun went off, prefiguring our current national trauma around race and society.” —Fenton Johnson, author of The Man Who Loved Birds
“A captivating narrative about race, sex, nationality, generations and romance, Orr’s expansive new novel fulfills the promise of her debut tour de force, A Different Sun. Her keen sense of historical impact and geographical detail keeps us reading and hoping for a sequel.” —Valerie Miner, author of Traveling with Spirits
“A thoughtful read touching on social as well as personal issues.”—Booklist
“The catalyst for the biggest cry I’ve ever had reading a book. No French ending here. Sad, but with a brilliant resolution…. [I] found myself rejoicing at story’s end—with tears streaming down my face.”—Smoky Mountain News
“Orr offers beautifully wrought lesson about America’s troubled race relations and what it means to follow one’s conscience.”—Greensboro News & Record
“Orr has crafted an intelligent book that both challenges and entertains”—The News & Observer
“Set indeed in two worlds, these lives blend, merge and diverge in a sea of wonderful prose and pure storytelling infused with all the right elements marking a fine Southern novel.”—Mountain Times
Elaine Neil Orr is professor of English at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where she teaches world literature and creative writing. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Spalding University in Louisville. Author of A Different Sun, two scholarly books, and the memoir Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, she has been a featured speaker and writer-in-residence at numerous universities and conferences and is a frequent fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She grew up in Nigeria.