It's a fresh start for Delores Walker when she boards a Greyhound bus bound for Florida. Leaving the Bronx far behind, she's headed for sunny Weeki Wachee Springs, frayed roadside attraction in danger of becoming obsolete with the opening of Walt Disney's latest creation, only miles up the road. Always more suited for a life underwater, Delores joins a group of other aquatic hopefuls in this City of Live Mermaids, where she discovers a world of sequined tails and amphibious theme shows that even Disney couldn't dream up. It's in this fantastic place of make-believe and reinvention that Delores Walker becomes Delores Taurus, Florida's most unlikely celebrity. Bringing together an eccentric assortment of outcasts, poseurs, and underdogs, this wise and poignant novel conjures up a time in America when anything was possible, especially in the Sunshine State. A story of family, chasing dreams and finding your way, Swim To Me will have you believing the impossible—even in mermaids from the Bronx.
Bronx native Delores Walker first experiences Florida's Weeki Wachee Springs Mermaid Show roadside attraction while on a family road trip when she's just fourteen. By the age of sixteen, she's invited to join the show herself. It's the 1970s, her father has recently walked out on the family, and young Delores eagerly accepts the position but it doesn't take long for her the grittier side of this whole new world she's now a member of. Still a teenager, Delores -- now going by the stage name Delores Taurus --- is already having to deal with lewd men licking the glass at her shows.
Though the cast of ladies brings together a variety of backgrounds, a kind of sisterhood naturally forms, strengthened by the Womens' Lib movement of the era. Behind them all is Thelma, who seems rough on the swimmers but the story later reveals she does truly care about them and has their backs, even if her concern comes out a little on the gruff side. Though she's sometimes left in a tough position when it comes to the business side of things, Thelma does her best to battle sexism against her mermaids. There's also some time spent on Delores's relationship with her father, his anger issues, and Delores's struggle with her mother sometimes being petty and manipulative.
The whole plot is wrapped around a behind the scenes look at a mermaid show, making it a strong pick for summertime reading. Plot moves a little slow at times, but the bonds between the ladies keeps the pace enjoyable even when the action might lag here and there. As far as individual character development, a number of them start out pretty good but many of the characters are not quite fleshed out enough IMO.
In the end, the main theme looks at the idea of everyone having their little secrets and the common thread of everyone having the temptation to start fresh from time to time, that sometimes meaning a new approach to their identity. You might not be able to change where you originally came from, but each day is an opportunity to move one step closer to who you want to be. Story's end resolution is a little weak, but I still had a good time on the ride.