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Book Review: Dryland by Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Alcoholism is a killer. I know it’s ironic to write that statement on a blog I started to talk about wine tasting and wine pairing recipes. (And I do want to get back to the original purpose of this blog – and I will.) But I’ve watched too many people throw away lives on alcohol, and there can be a very fine line between drinking irresponsibly from time-to-time and outright alcohol addiction. 

I hate to admit that I can relate to Nancy Stearns Bercaw’s story in Dryland. But I can, a little bit. When I was a philosophy major, when I was a philosophy grad student working on my Ph.D.,  I knew who I was. It was easy. I was a single mom and a philosopher. Those two things kept coming to a head, though, and eventually, I made made a decision to leave graduate school and pursue another path.

At first, it was “easy.” I threw myself into an unhealthy relationship head first, I started writing professionally, I mommed so hard. That relationship came to a head, and I got safe. Writing took off for me in a big way around the same time. Life hasn’t slowed down since. I met the love of my life, got married, had three more kids, sent the big guy off to college, and I feel like it’s been a total whirlwind! In fact, it can feel like I’m flailing about trying to regain balance and figure out who I am as mom of four. I can see where someone might turn to alcohol to escape the deep existential questions that come up when you’re trying to find a new “box” for yourself. Especially when everything has happened so quickly – even when that “everything” is all good stuff.

Of course, because I’m breastfeeding, and because with three people under the age of four you always have to be on, I drink very, very rarely.

For Bercaw, though, once she left the swimming lanes, she wasn’t quite sure who she was. She fell into the alcoholic spiral and became dependent on the drug to handle life. It isn’t until she realizes that things are out of control that she starts to reign it in and that’s where her memoir Dryland, comes into play.  It’s at times a tough book to read but at the same time, it’s worth making the journey through the book with Bercaw’s words. 

About Dryland

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Grand Harbor Press (April 18, 2017)

For swimming champion Nancy Stearns Bercaw, the pool was a natural habitat. But on land, she could never shake the feeling of being a fish out of water. Starting at age two, Nancy devoted her life to swimming, even qualifying for the 1988 Olympic Trials in the fifty-meter freestyle event. But when she hung up her cap and goggles after college, she was confronted with a different kind of challenge: learning who she was out of the lanes.

In this honest, intimate memoir, Nancy reflects on her years wandering the globe, where tragic events and a lost sense of self escalate her dependence on booze. Thirty-three years after her first sip of alcohol, the swimmer comes to a stunning realization while living with her husband and son in Abu Dhabi—she’s drowning in the desert. Nancy looks to the Bedouin people for the strength to conquer one final opponent: alcohol addiction.

Praise

“A brave, honest, adventurous memoir that keeps you turning pages as Bercaw travels around the world and rediscovers what it really means to win…at life.” —Leigh Newman, author of Still Points North

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million

About Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Writer and national champion swimmer Nancy Stearns Bercaw is a seventeen-time NCAA All-American athlete and was inducted into the University of South Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. Her writing has appeared in publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Korea HeraldU.S. News & World Report, Abu Dhabi’s Tempo magazine, and ScaryMommy.com. In addition to Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety, she is the author of Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey Through Her Father’s Memory and a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.

Find out more about Nancy at her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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