The thirteen linked stories in Joan Clark's Swimming Toward the Light are like a spectrum of bright colours refracted into a clear white beam. Layer by layer, they reveal the life of Madge Murray, from her childhood in wartime Nova Scotia and her youth in New Brunswick, to her defiance as a young divorcee and her continuing quest as a West Coast artist.
Always, Madge struggles to live in peace, dependent by instinct but pulled towards independence by her circumstances and the discovery of her own creativity. Decent, fallible, and startlingly complex, Madge's family, from her distant ancestors to her grown children, shares her own tangled nature.
In Swimming Toward the Light, Clark portrays a determined girl growing into a strong woman who faces violence and misery head-on. Some stories, such as "Luna Moths," contain passages of lyrical beauty, and others, including "War Stories" and "The Train Family," are rich with the poignancy that comes with delayed understanding.