Lifeguarding by Catherine McCall
A Memoir of Secrets, Swimming, and the South

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In her sharply observed and ultimately redemptive memoir, Catherine McCall paints a vivid and sometimes heartbreaking portrait of growing up in a complicated Southern family, whose perfect façade hides crippling imperfections.

There are two parents, three children, and five ghosts in the McCall family. With their preppie clothes and country-club smiles, the McCalls look like all the other East End Louisville families. No one knows there are problems, that an internal gash the size of the Ohio river is flooding the family. All Cathy and her siblings can do is promise to stick together no matter what—and swim.

But even though they are fast, the McCall kids can’t outdistance their father’s destructive habits and their mother’s worry. As her family reaches a breaking point and an unexpected love blooms, thirteen-year-old Cathy finds she must keep secrets of her own. Though the love in this family is strong, Cathy must discover if it’s tenacious enough to withstand the truth.

Candid, captivating, and infused with compassion, Lifeguarding affirms the flexible strength of love itself; how family bonds must often bend to the point of breaking . . . and beyond.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Catherine McCall

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A graduate of Emory University and its medical school, Catherine McCall received an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She has done regular commentary for regional public radio, and her writing has been published in the New York Times, Louisville Courier-Journal, Wilmington Star-News, and the North Carolina Literary Review. In addition to writing, she is a psychiatrist in private practice. McCall lives in Wilmington, North Carolina. Visit her at
Published July 11, 2006 by Crown. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Lifeguarding

USA Today

Bodies of water oceans, lakes, pools, puddles ripple with potential metaphors.And Catherine McCall, apparently, has yet to meet one that doesn't float her boat."We were five people rowing a tiny lifeboat," McCall writes, recalling the troubled parents and siblings who, along with competitive sw...

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