Sara J. Henry on Her Debut Thriller Learning to Swim

While standing on the deck of the Lake Champlain ferry bound for Vermont, Troy Chance sees a small boy tossed over the side of a ferry going the opposite direction. Without thinking, she jumps to his rescue, setting off a chain of events that see her embroiled in a kidnapping plot with tendrils in the Adirondacks and Vermont as well as Ottawa and Montreal.

Download an excerpt of Sara J. Henry’s Learning to Swim.

“It’s the best first chapter I’ve ever read.” —Reed Farrel Coleman, award-winning author of Innocent Monster

Read It Forward: Where did you get the idea for Learning to Swim?

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Sara J. Henry: I was driving along Lake Champlain and looking out across the misty, cold water. For some reason, I envisioned a woman on the deck of the ferry that crosses to Vermont, observing what she thinks is a small boy plummeting into the water from the ferry going in the opposite direction.

I could see her standing near the railing, and I could feel her making the split-second decision to dive into the frigid lake after the child. Who was that woman? Who was the child? Why did she dive in after him without thinking? What happened next?

This was the novel I always wanted to write – and that moment changed my life. I couldn’t forget that scene, and when I sat down to write a novel, it became the opening chapter of Learning to Swim. While the book has gone through many revisions since the first draft, that opening chapter has remained virtually unchanged.

“Troy Chance—an everywoman hero who women will admire and men will want to meet.” —Michael Robotham, bestselling author of Shatter

RIF: Tell us about Troy Chance, the woman on the ferry.

SH: As a joke, I told someone that Troy is a cross between Jane Eyre and Travis McGee (the hero of John D. MacDonald’s gritty series) – and there’s more truth to that than I realized. I grew up reading suspense novels by Mary Stewart and Charlotte Armstrong, all featuring an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances, and I wanted to create a modern and independent version of that woman.

Troy is a freelance writer, single, distant from her family, without a lot of close friends. She has doubts and fears like the rest of us; she knows her strengths and her weaknesses, but she has blind spots. She’s focused on doing right and getting to the bottom of things at all costs, and she’s fiercely protective of the child she rescues.

“Fresh setting, well-realized characters, cleanly written, with a mysterious and suspenseful story.” —Daniel Woodrell, award-winning author of Winter’s Bone

RIF: What’s your connection to the “other New York”?

SH: When I lived in the Adirondacks and told people I lived in New York, they immediately envisioned New York City – many people don’t realize there’s a very different New York upstate, with tiny towns, lakes and trees, and mountains instead of skyscrapers.

I lived in Lake Placid, a town that held two Winter Olympics, in a big house on Main Street and rented out rooms to athletes. I worked as a sports reporter in nearby Saranac Lake, which seemed to me a Norman Rockwell sort of town, just a little frayed around the edges. I covered sports I’d never seen and some I’d barely heard of: bobsled and luge, lacrosse and rugby, sled dog races and three-day canoe events.

I loved the spirit of the small towns, the softball teams everyone played on, the parades and firework celebrations they all showed up for. So, of course, when I wrote a novel, my main character lived in a big house on Lake Placid’s Main Street with multiple roommates and worked as a sports reporter for the local paper.

“A mesmerizing confluence of mystery, intrigue, and suspense, with undercurrents of deep personal drama.” -Jamie Ford, bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

RIF: How would you describe Learning to Swim?

SH: You could call this book suspense. You could call it a psychological thriller or literary mystery, or a combination of these. Someone told me this book is a lot of things: a crime novel and a suspense novel; a woman’s book and a love story; the story of a lost child and the story of self-discovery. I like to think of it as a book that will speak to a lot of people.

“Readers will be cheering for Troy Chance as she deftly navigates the treacherous waters of betrayal and loss, and they’ll be looking forward to seeing her again when the book is closed.” —Lisa Unger, bestselling author of Fragile

Sara J. Henry is a major new talent with a haunting debut – her heroine, Troy, is unforgettable, and we’re thrilled that she will be back in another book, set in the Adirondacks.

Visit Sara online at and on Facebook and Twitter.

About Kira Walton

Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

  • Diane

    This sounds like a wonderful book. Got to have it and read it. I grow up visiting my grandparents and cousins that lives in the Adirondacks. My father was from Lake Placid which is a beautiful town. The people are really wonderful from there.I have wonderful memoiries of it. Also have been swimming in Lake Champlain many a time. I can really relate to this book. Good luck with the book. Thank you for bring some wonderful memories back to me.


    Great choice of prize Sara J. Henry on Her Debut Thriller Learning to Swim

  • Darlene Larson

    Sounds interesting. Hope it is as great as “The Room” which I am currently reading.

  • Kristin McCabe

    “Learning to swim” sounds like my kind of story. I love a good mystery, and this has elements romance, as well as a look at the non-NYC New York. I love upstate New York, and I think it is a great setting for a book like this.

  • Pamela Barbee

    Very well written. Makes you want to rush to read what is happening next.

  • Arlene Sphikas

    I would love to read this. it takes place in my favorite part of the country.

  • Bonnie

    Sounds like an enthralling book!

  • Casey

    You offer the BEST books in your giveaways!

  • Joyce Clark

    I would love to read it! Suspense thrillers are my favorite genre.

  • colleen

    Sounds like an interesting novel.Would love to win it

  • Dayna

    I’d like to read this book.

  • micah


  • micah

    Excited to begin reading this book!

  • Irene

    My kind of book…a literary, psychological thriller set in one of New York’s breathtakingly scenic historical sites. I loved Sara J. Henry’s remarks about “living in New York!” To some people, Upstate New York is Scarsdale. I live in upstate New York, Saratoga Springs, another gem in New York’s history.

  • Susan Stokes

    I have been reading so much about “Learning to Swim” Author Sara J. Henry..especially on BN..and a few trusted bloggers..My main reason is because It sounds wonderful..and I live in the whole area is so familair..I hope I am one of the winners…..Much Success Susan

  • joe dessler

    this book sounds so good

  • cora brack

    looks like a great read I love mysteries

  • marie

    looks like a great book!

  • Linda farrell

    I would lovr to read this book as it sound very interesting but I am unable to process this. Wikk not go through.

  • Brenda

    I downloaded the first chapter of this book and I was caught up in the story immediately! I can’t wait to read the rest of the book! It would be great if I could win a copy.

  • alexa

    Sounds interesting

  • Karen

    Sara J. Henry has a vivid style of writing. I would love to read “Learning To Swim”!

  • Sara J. Henry

    Thanks, everyone! Good luck in this contest!

  • Joyce

    Sounds like a fresh new idea. Something I’ve been waiting for! I can’t wait to read it! Thanks.

  • Michelle DeLozier

    I am just poking my head into reading, really getting into the substance of the book for the first time since Judy Blume:) Not ashamed to admit it, but reading has never been easy for me bacaue I am the ultimate daydreamer and I get so lost in thought and so, well there you go. Looking forward to reading this book and many more. Would love to start a collection and winning a copy for the first one would be wonderful:)

  • myra smart

    looks interesting

  • Debra

    Sound like mystery. It is very interest this book. I love to read the book. but I don’t have one.

  • J

    like the American/Canadian connection!

  • Kathy

    This sounds like a great read. Would love to have a copy so I can recommend it to my book club.


    I went and read the first chapter for this book, and now I am being punished because I am having to wait for the release of the book in order to finish it! This is one of the best reads I have began to read in a while. I believe that Sara J. Henry is bound to become a smash novelist, up there with the greats Iris Johansen and Tami Hoag 🙂

  • Jacquelyn Lane

    Me please, I would love to read this book.

  • Kathleen Davis

    I sure hope you pick me…. I soooooo want to read this book!

  • Kimberly

    This book looks like a great read!

  • Cyra

    I would love to read this book. I have read every book I own at least 3 times and would really enjoy a new read like this one. Pick me, pick me!! 🙂

  • Amy Kautzsch

    Sounds like a great book! I’d LOVE to get a copy and then share it~

  • donna harris

    I would love to have this book. I love to read, but I have a limited income being disabled, so I don’t get to buy to many books.

  • Jessica V.

    Sounds so intriguing! Just the kind of book I love.

  • Cindy Dolan

    My book club and I would love to read and dissect this book!

  • Maureen Sullivan

    Sounds like a great book. I haven’t read anything by this author

  • Maureen Sullivan

    Sounds like a great book to read.

  • donnab

    Learning to Swim sounds like a fabulous stormy winter day read!!

  • Karen Wilson

    I would love to read this book and pass it on to my family and friends.

  • Lija

    This sounds fabulous. Hope I win cuz I can’t wait to read it and then of course, write a review. I love this kind of book, so thanks!

  • Cindi Asquith

    This sounds like a wonderful book! I would love to read this!

  • kathy

    Sounds fascinating!! Hope I get to read it!! Please count me in.

  • Jennifer Otto

    Awesome to see a story based on selflessness!

  • D

    Would love to read it.

  • Patricia Mazzei

    I’d love to read this book. I love a good thriller.

  • Brandi Grimes

    I’m always on the lookout for a good author. This book sounds interesting and I would love to read it and pass it along to my friends.

  • Lisa Murdock

    Sounds great. I love a good mystery and this sounds like it’s even more than that.

  • Pat

    Will be on my list of reads.

  • Pat

    It will be on my list of books to read. Thanks for letting us know about these great books!

    Another book lover

  • Ida McCarty

    This book sounds so riveting and engaging. I would love to read this book.

  • Tia Schletty

    I would like to read this!

  • lisa c.

    I was recently notified that I will receive this book! I am very excited to read it,particularly because I also live in the Adirondacks. Thank you very much, and I cannot wait to receive it!

  • april st.aoro

    sounds like a book that would be hared to put down, would love to read it.

  • Brenda Rupp

    I would love to read this book. I love a great mystery. Thank you for offering it.

  • michelle r

    I’m sad that I did not win this book ): it sounds like a wonderful read and my type of book. I will be looking for it at the stores now!

  • sara

    sounds interesting !!!

  • Sarealia Snitchler

    This book sounds so good-I hope I get a copy!!!!

  • Celeste Johnson

    This is the first book I have received and what a treat! I was hooked on the first page. A wonderful combination of mystery and self discovery. I would definitely recommend this book! I was excited to pass it on to a friend! Thanks.

  • Jo Banegas

    Wow! I totally enjoyed the book. Having never read this author before, I did not know what I was missing. I will without a doubt have to look for Sara Henry’s other books. I will pass it on, but will feel as if I am giving a treasure away!

  • Claudia Sue Meyers

    I received my copy of Learning To Swim last week, and I am glad to say I am finished. I did not do much else but read(NO HOUSEWORK OR FARMVILLE), until I read the last word. The story line drew me in and I never lost interest! Suspense and interesting twist and turns in the plot makes this a very compelling read. Don’t plan to read this on your lunch break because you will most likely be late getting back to work. The WHO-done-it in this book was a real surprise as I always form an opinion of the criminal from the start. I highly suggest you grab this thriller and relax,(ON THE EDGE OF THE SEAT)for a start to finish read! Now to go and PASS IT FORWARD!

  • Marjorie

    Warning do not start reading
    Learning toSwim” by Sara J. Henry unless you have time to finish the book. From the begining your hart is pounding and your pulse is racing. Reading books by Sara J. Henry maybe my new form of exercising.
    “Learning to Swim” is a good story and it is very well written. I hope Sara has another book in the works. She could be starting a new Stephaine Plum series. Her lead character, Troy Chance, is a woman you want to spend lots of time with and get to know her better.
    I am a member of a book club that has been meeting once a month for the past twenty-five years. “Learning to Swim” is the club’s next great adventure.

  • Jennifer Wollesen

    I just finished Learning to Swim and I loved it! I stayed up and read half the book the first night.

  • Susan Fenton

    Was a great book, easy to read but not a simple book. The main character jumped in to her life (as well as the water) but was able to look at all the consequences (good as well as bad) of her actions. I can’t wait to read another of her books.

  • Lbwilson

    I read this book and it was fabulous. It keeps you going all the way to the end and you truly do not know which direction you will go. The ending does grab you with quite a turn of events. I recommend it to anyone to loves suspense and rooting on the underdog!

  • Tawna

    I was able to read this book. It is fantastic. I hope tosee many books from he in the future.

  • Jolene Hamby

    FINALLY an author who doesn’t feel the need to use sex, violence, drugs or the occult to move the story along! Her characters have normal flaws & normal reactions to their changing circumstances, not the over the top exaggerated ones so often found in most books today. I’m definitely passing this book on to others & am looking forward to her next one.

  • Naomi B.

    I loved this book. I was a winner of it on Goodreads and sunk myself into it!! Def. got 5 stars from me because of the twists that Sara Henry was able to pull off masterfully, for a debut author. I will def. be looking for more from her!

  • Carrie Scaduto

    This sounds interesting, would love a chance to read it

  • Terri Crum

    Would love to read this book…love suspense!

  • Jackie

    I loved the story. I thought I had it all figured out but the ending proved me wrong.

  • Celeste

    I loved this book. It kept me guessing all the way through. So many twists and turns. It’s definitely a page turner.


    One of the best reads from a new author in a long time. I ordered my book through my Kindle, and was reading the book within a few seconds. I read the first chapter, then downloaded the sample for Kindle, then ended up having to order the book. It was such a good read. Can’t wait to go back and read it again 🙂

  • Andrea Wilber

    This is the first fictional book that I couldn’t put down in a long time. I mean 3:30 in the morning craziness. Great read!

  • Melissa

    Learning to Swim is an amazing book and a very quick read. From the beginning of the story I was hooked. I felt personally invested in the lives of these characters. I wanted them to “win”. While I was a bit disappointed with the lack of closure, perhaps that was designed so that the story might continue into a series. I’d love to read more!

  • Sandy

    This book was AMAZING!! I was hooked from the first page. What a wonderful Author. I was totally caught up in this book. I can’t wait to pass it on to a friend to read.

  • Sarah

    Just started it and can’t put it down! I’m on the edge of my seat.

  • Paula

    Excellent book! It grabs you from the first page. The plot twists and turns so you do not know until the very end the whole story.

    Can’t wait for her to write another book.

  • Manon Kaplan

    I would love to get this book. Hope I can win it.

  • Robyn

    Learning to Swim is a mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Sara J. Henry successfully blends mystery, thrills and heart into Learning to Swim and will keep you guessing until the very end. Henry’s debut novel presents a genuine and realistic heroine in Troy Chance, a woman we can visualize or may know.
    Henry adeptly swallows the reader into the plot with the opening. Troy Chance is taking a ferry to see her so-so boyfriend when she sees a small boy fall off of another passing ferry, without thought or hesitation Chance jumps into Lake Champlain to search for the boy. Chance does find him with an adult sweatshirt tied around his small body to prevent any movement or escape. Our heroine has spent her life separating and distancing herself from her family, and she prefers to keep friends at a safe distance, not truly revealing herself to anyone or letting anyone in.
    Immediately life is changed for Chance and as the plot unfolds both reader and Chance learn together the situation behind the young boy Paul and his appearance in the lake. Instantly reader and Chance also feel for Paul wanting to keep him safe and unsure that the proper thing to do is the right thing. We follow Chance as she tries to uncover Paul’s past, the truth about his kidnapping, and his kidnappers so he may be safe once again, but also as she herself becomes transformed. Chance also learns about opening up and letting people in.

  • Maney Gale

    I loved this book! The characters and plot were captivating and kept me reading. Great read!

  • Linda

    Was a little disappointing. It had a good story line, but I felt like it needed more story and detail. The main character was far too trusting and I felt it was odd that would so readily become attached to this child and family that she knew nothing about, and that she could move in with perfect strangers. Felt it would have been a better story if things didn’t jump so quickly

  • Betty Gardner

    Can’t wait to read this book.

  • Pamela DeLong

    I loved this book! It grabbed me from the first page and was difficult to put down! I too appreciate a book that is suspenseful, powerful, touching and doesn’t need to use curse words, sex or the occult to supposedly make it better! What a terrific book! I’m passing it on to my mother next!

  • Irene

    I read this book in one evening!! The first sentence, “If I’d blinked, I would have missed it.” was enough to tug me in until the wee hours (which for me is anytime after 11:00 P.M.). Loved the easily envisoned familiar setting, furious attempts to discern the villians, and the gutsy Troy Chance. Sara J. Henry’s debut is a winner. Is this the beginning of a new series? I certainly hope so!

  • Sara J. Henry

    Irene and others: Yes, it is the first in a series! The second will be out in 2012, and more to come after that. So glad you enjoyed it …

  • Irene Yeates


    Congratulations…your debut left me begging for more, and I am happy to learn to that there will be more!!!!


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