(FIG TREE, 192 PP, £12.99)
Tablet bookshop price £11.69 • tel 020 7799 4064
For a slim slice of heartbreak, this latest novel by Julie Otsuka is wryly upbeat. It takes its time to blindside you, drawing you into its watery universe with stealth and skill. We’re in an underground pool, a cool and cavernous chamber many feet below the sizzling surface of California, all wildfires and melting tarmac. Its demarcated lanes – slow, medium, fast – offer both solace and abandon to the frazzled regulars who ply up and down, shedding their everyday hang-ups in a loose fellowship of communal immersion. One of those regulars is Alice, a retired lab technician in the early stages of dementia. Down here she is one among equals, all lost in worlds of their own.