In Night Swim, Joan Kwon Glass navigates the dark sea of mourning after losing her sister and her 11-year old nephew to suicide within a two month span of time. Night Swim does not turn away from the ugly, unreconciled side of grief: the recurring nightmares, life with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, questions that will never have answers, the desire to hold someone responsible for the deaths when there is no one left to blame. The collection begins with a solitary, titular poem which asks the reader to consider what grief feels like when "the landscape doesn’t change // but everything else does."
In this testimony of mourning and memory, the author weaves a suicide survivorship narrative told through the five stages of grief. This narrative includes the author’s memories of the weeks leading up to the deaths, her regrets, scenes from the funerals, erasures from police reports, and the excruciating forging ahead with daily life in spite of deep sorrow, maddening questions, and all that remains unresolved. It gives survivors permission to find their way through on their own terms: to hold a grudge against the dead while also wishing desperately for them to still be alive, to consider taking every door in your house off its hinges just to make more room for ghosts, to measure time by the ages the dead would have been if they were still here. Night Swim suggests that in order to live bravely again in a world without one’s beloved, the survivor may eschew the expectations of “appropriate” grief and tell the truth as it exists for them. What should we hold onto and what should we let go of? Although Night Swim shares a story of extraordinary loss, it is also a testament to how even against the harshest currents, in the darkest waters, we can swim up and through, where light and the shore will be waiting.