Betsy Byars always manages to make a story more interesting than I expect, and Night Swimmers - winner of the American Book Award - does it again.
Retta, Johnny and Roy are the new kids in town. Their mother is dead and their father, a has-been country singer, is almost irrelevant as a parent, usually choosing to ignore a problem until it goes away. Retta has stepped in as the primary parent to her brothers, a role that she clings to desperately. Deciding to broaden their horizons, Retta searches for experiences outside their own limited world and finds a pool in the neighborhood where she takes the boys swimming at night. When Johnny makes a new friend and begins to do things without his siblings, Retta feels that her position is threatened and that she's failing as a parent.
Shorty, their father, had one hit in his musical career - a song about the death of his wife. Since then, he struggles to support his family by performing locally. Beyond the very basics of a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food on the table, Shorty doesn't seem to know what to do for these people who are his children. When tragedy brushes up against his youngest son, Shorty is brought into sharper focus: his once glittering appearance is shabby and worn. His parenting skills are highlighted in his words - none.
Roy's certainty that the Bowlwater Plant is a magical Jack-and-the-Beanstalk type of plant is, in the end, the perfect symbol of the entire story. The suddenly arrived at conclusion that it is, indeed, just a factory, is sad but important for Roy. The entire family needs to get back to reality before the whole loose bundle that is their lives falls apart.
My daughter this is a fantastic abook and found it very interesting.