Ambitious new fiction from Levin (Shimoni's Lover, 1987, etc.) degenerates, despite some vivid writing, into a mawkish--and always politically correct--paean to the redemptive power of love, especially women's love. Returning to the world of competitive swimming (Water Dancer, 1982), Levin tells the story of three desperately unhappy women: college swim-coach Brenna Allen and her two star swimmers--Cuban-American Babe Delgado, and Ellie Marks, only child of an aging Holocaust survivor. Brenna, who's just lost her lover Kay to cancer, is trying to overcome her grief by building a champion swimming team. Babe, the only one of two survivors in an air crash in which swim teammates were killed, is recovering from her physical injuries and dealing with memories of beloved Liz, who had betrayed her, as well as with lingering fears evoked by her former coach, a certifiable off-the-wall sadist who made his team kill animals and drink their blood. And, last, Ellie yearns for love but must struggle with the guilt she feels at being alive while her siblings lost their lives in the Holocaust. Over the school year, thanks to Brenna's martinet regimen, the team begins to win; and Babe and Ellie not only challenge themselves physically but experience hope and renewal. Babe, able to exorcise her past (thanks to a sorceress Cuban aunt), admits to Ellie that she loves her. Ellie, loving Babe in return, can thank her parents now for giving her life, making her ""necessary."" And with more violins tuning up, Brenna too finds love with an old college friend. (Ellie: ""We have to be alone for final journeys but I'm grateful for the company and the love."") An awkward mix of the profound and the political as Levin's well-defined characters offer tiresomely banal and tendentious comments on life and love--without adding much new to either.