Where Mountains Come to Swim by Paul Lundgren

Where Mountains Come to Swim

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Lundgren recounts his attempts to swim across the Sea of Cortez in this debut memoir.

The narrative focuses on the author’s burdensome mission in 1995 to swim across the aforementioned body of water, also known as the Gulf of California, and his necessary preparations for the undertaking. But Lundgren also reflects on the personal and spiritual motivations, and what he was trying to accomplish with a swim that would take more than two days to complete. He chronicles his extensive training regimen and the work he put in to chart his course and ensure his safety. In between these specifics, Lundgren digresses to share his family history and reflect on how it has shaped him. Throughout the narrative, he uses elements of his preparations as metaphors to interpret these experiences; he looks back on his parents’ divorce and the emotional abuse that he says he suffered at the hands of his stepfather, as well as his own development as an athlete, and draws a parallel between his life’s journey and the swim, which is revealed as a symbol of personal growth. The loose structure allows room for Lundgren’s philosophical preoccupations to roam free. However, it results in an often jumbled narrative that jumps back and forth between his past, his months of training, and the swim itself. As a result, the memoir’s meandering blunts the effect of some of its more visceral, climactic moments. Nevertheless, Lundgren’s mix of spiritual and physical struggle is often compelling. His sincerity is clear in his prose—a mixture straightforwardness and pretension that often finds him stepping back to reflect on his own ego, ensuring that his journey never strays into mere navel-gazing.

A somewhat unfocused but often engaging account of a personal athletic challenge.

Publisher: Dog Ear
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


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