Book Review: “Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety” by Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Nancy is a former swimming champion, one who qualified for the Olympic Trials, but didn’t go.  But this memoir isn’t really all about that.  It is a look at her incredible life and how alcohol – lots of it – is a common thread through each major event.  She has lived in some beautiful, remote, alcohol-unfriendly and urban areas in many different cultures and on different continents and always found a way to drink.  More to the point, she always found a way to drink enough that she needed to hide the empties or evidence of the sheet volume of her consumption.  But while living in Abu Dhabi, her body and overall health screaming the effects of her alcoholism, she decides that she’s done.  And with the help of her loving husband and son, she kicks the habit and sees the world in a better, clearer light.

I really wasn’t sure that this was something I wanted to read.  I mean, I do enjoy my adult beverages but I’m not an alcoholic.  I’ve never been a swimmer – or athlete – in my life.  I wasn’t really sure how I would connect with the author.  What I didn’t realize was that she has really led one of those incredible lives that I wish I had been brave enough to pursue.

I was fascinated by her tales of living in all of these places:  Kenya with the Peace Corp, Seoul, Abu Dhabi…  and of all the places she visited when living in these areas of the world.  I’ve always loved to travel, but she was living and working in these places.  But she was living as an alcoholic.  She found ways to procure her favorite drink – or any drink – while living in rural East Africa as well as in Muslim countries.  But she did it.

She had all the excuses too.  She acknowledges that her friends and acquaintances had made comments to her about her drinking and constant hangovers, but she disregarded them.  She didn’t want to hear it.  Instead, she created these false “rules” for herself:  can’t fly without a drink, need to forget what happened in Seoul and can only do that with a drink, so happy and in love so need to drink to celebrate, etc.

The writing style is near conversational in its casual tone, which works here.  I felt like the author was just telling me her story, which is in fact, the definition of a memoir.  And I’m glad to know it, even though I didn’t think it would apply to me.  I always love to be able to cheer someone on!  So while this may be of particular interest to former alcoholics and those who love them, I do believe this would appeal to anyone who enjoys survivalist memoir with a side of travelogue.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy for review.


Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety98003-tlc-logo-resized

by Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Grand Harbor Press, 2017

246 pages

Source:  TLC Book Tour



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