Swimming Sweet Arrow by Maureen Gibbon

Maureen Gibbon’s novel, Swimming Sweet Arrow, is something of a surprise. The first surprise might be the very graphic sex. But the second surprise will most definitely be how affecting the novel’s narrator, 18 year old Vangie is.

“When I was eighteen, I went parking with  my boyfriend Del, my best friend June, and her boyfriend Del. What I  mean is that June fucked Ray and I fucked Del in the  same car, at the same time.”

Gibbon establishes Vangie’s voice- at once innocent and experienced- from the novel’s opening lines and from that moment on it’s hard to stop turning the pages as a year in Vangie’s life unfolds.

Vangie graduates from high school, moves in with Del, parties incessantly and slowly begins climbing out of her youth and into her adulthood. The success of the book is the way in which Gibbon writes Vangie, a character who never shies away from who she is or what she wants. And even when she makes horrible mistakes in judgment, Vangie never passes the buck. Despite the subject matter, which might be potentially too-graphic for some, Vangie’s search for meaning, for love, and for a place to belong is a thing of beauty.

Read a Review


1. Vangie says: Here is what they never tell you about being a girl.” What things do you wish someone had told you about being a girl?

2. What purpose does all the very graphic talk about sex serve in the novel?

3. What is the impetus for Vangie trying to get her life together.

4. There are several betrayals in the book- which is the most significant?

Reading Guide

12 (1/2-inch-thick) baguette slices
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium tomato, peeled , seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons julienned soft sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 tablespoon torn fresh basil
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons bottled black olive tapenade
8 oz soft mild goat cheese log, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices

Garnish: torn fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Brush 1 side of baguette slices with 2 tablespoons oil and arrange, oiled sides up, on a baking sheet. Toast bread in middle of oven until golden on top, about 7 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool. Leave oven on.

Stir together fresh and dried tomatoes, basil, vinegar, and 1/2 tablespoon oil.

Spread each toast with tapenade and top with a slice of goat cheese and a rounded teaspoon of tomato mixture. Arrange tartines on a baking sheet, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon oil.

Bake tartines in middle of oven until cheese is softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil.

Cooks’ notes:
• Toasts may be made 2 days ahead, cooled completely, and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
• Tomato mixture may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Makes 6 hors d’oeuvres servings.


2 responses to “Swimming Sweet Arrow by Maureen Gibbon

  1. Just wanted to note that Maureen was my college professor before I read this book, which perhaps made me biased, but I was so refreshed with its honesty and bluntness.

    The graphic descriptions of sex are not romanticized, nor are they “vulgarized” in a way to make it feel pornographic. Rather it is just true, honest talk about what sex is, or can be, to a young woman who is experiencing similar situations. I was so happy that Vangie was willing to share so much with us.

    As a young girl, I was told that sex is beautiful and natural and happens between adults. And of course I learned about rape and various forms of sexual and domestic abuse. I wish some one would have told me

    “Sex is fun, it’s funny, it’s beautiful but can be really, really ugly. It’s not always going to work the way you expect. Sometimes the things your body wants and the things your mind tell you don’t match-up, and it’s perfectly normal for sex to make you confused, sad, or angry at times.

    And sometimes there are fine lines between happily ever after, and being truly abused by the person you trust the most. This can be the most devastating pain you will ever experience.”

  2. Maureen must have been a wonderful professor. I really enjoyed this book’s frankness and Vangie’s voice. Thanks for commenting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s