Thursday, June 21, 2018

Swimming To Freedom by Robbie Michaels

Once, swimming was a labor of love for Brandon. Now it’s just a labor.
When Brandon’s competitive, domineering father decided to cash in on his son’s hobby, he sucked all the joy out of the sport for his son. Now Brandon’s father spends every ounce of his energy training Brandon for one purpose: Olympic gold and with it the chance to experience success vicariously through Brandon.
Brandon falling in love with Tyler, another swimmer, was not part of his father’s plan. Luckily the two young men have Joel in their corner, a straight ally who helps them find time alone. When Brandon’s father finds out about the relationship, his reaction is sadly predictable, and soon, Brandon’s new home is beneath a bridge. He finds peace swimming in the river, but feels fear as wild animals pass by his shelter during the night.
But once again, his happiness cannot last. Torrential storms are threatening to wash away his future—maybe for good this time.
REVIEW - 4 Stars!
After reading the blurb for Robbie Michaels’ Swimming to Freedom, I couldn’t wait to get it.
From the beginning, I could tell I was about to be taken on an emotional ride. Swimming to Freedom centers on Brandon, a star swimmer caught under his father’s tyrannical hands. Brandon’s father controls everything that Brandon does, not allowing anything except swimming, training, and schoolwork.
Brandon has always loved swimming. In the water, he finds the peace and tranquility that he can’t find anywhere else. His father, however, even makes that part of life awful, as he yells throughout practices and meets, and is demanding about Brandon’s training and practice schedule. You can’t help but sympathize with Brandon, who can only dream of hanging out with friends, or being able to call them on a cell phone. Instead he is stuck under the rule of his toxic father.
I love the courage Brandon’s friend Joel develops when he realizes how tough Brandon’s life is. He finds ways to help Brandon escape for a while. It is wonderful to see how passionate he becomes on his mission. Joel is truly an amazing and loyal friend.
When Brandon meets Tyler at a swim meet, he is captivated and can’t take his eyes off him. Tyler is also shocked to find out how strict Brandon’s dad really is. With the help of Joel, Tyler finds even more ways to help Brandon spend time with his friends.
There are many times where I wanted to applaud Joel and Tyler for sticking up for Brandon and finding ways to help him. They are truly the most dedicated, determined and dependable friends ever.
As you would expect, when Brandon’s dad learns that Brandon is gay, he freaks out and kicks Brandon out of his home. This part is just heartbreaking. He is able to stay with Tyler for a short time. But he is then left homeless, dumpster diving for food and sleeping under a bridge. His perseverance alone helping him to survive. He does what he has to do and never complains to anyone. Most people would ask for help, but Brandon just isn’t wired that way. It is inspiring to see how strong of a young man he is.
As for Brandon’s father, wow! He is written so well. As despicable of a man as he is, his reasons for acting this way are well developed. This is a very powerful reminder to never live through your children and their successes.
I love a good story which involves someone getting away from an overbearing father. Brandon’s dad is as controlling as one can get and extremely intimidating. I am surprised with some of the ways Brandon’s friends were able to steamroll over him. It seems like it is too easy at times. Yet, in reality, it isn’t easy. These boys create good plans and then follow through on them perfectly.
You won’t find much romance or sex in this book. Although Brandon and Tyler fall in love, it happens without much description or fanfare. Swimming to Freedom focuses more on what Brandon has to endure with his father, how he overcomes it, and his ability to survive when his dad is unreasonable. The love connection plays a crucial role in the story, and adds to the plot greatly, without being the main focus.
One of my favorite sentiments is when Brandon is told that even though something is in the past, it is now a part of him and will remain with him forever. This is all too true, as everyone is shaped by their past experiences.
Personally, I really enjoy Swimming to Freedom. I find it to be a well written story based on events that are all too present in our society.

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