“Swimming Upstream” Book Review: Women’s Fiction Novel Newly Picked Up by Publisher


Ruth Mancini self-published her women’s fiction novel in November 2012, and like many self-published authors she struggled to get her book in the hands of readers. A major giveaway led to some success in April 2013. The  novel remained in the top 10 on an Amazon best seller list for a week. But afterward, Mancini sold very little simply because, like most authors, she had a compelling story but no way to get people to hear it. In September 2013 that changed when indie publisher Booktrope signed Mancini to a relaunch deal. I had the pleasure of reading Swimming Upstream before Booktrope acquired it, and am even happier to hear that the new version planned for release in November or December won’t contain editorial changes.


Swimming Upstream is the story of a young British woman, Lizzie, who is doing the best she can to be happy and successful despite some significant heart break. Lizzie’s father was run over by a car in front of her when she was a little girl. As she grew up, she tried to fill the hole in her life by getting into relationships with men seen as popular or desirable. She meets a musician named Larsen in college and the two move in together. Their relationship comes crashing down when Larsen cheats on Lizzie and gets the other girl pregnant. Although the pain opens up old wounds, Lizzie carries on. She finds herself a new place to live and focuses on her career in news radio.


Lizzie, what happened to your father?” asked Tim. He asked this hesitantly, as people always did, because they weren’t sure that they should be asking. I only minded that they might not really want to know.

He died,” I said. “He was hit by a car. I was six. He collapsed, as he was crossing the road, and a car hit him. I was there outside our house, waiting for him on the pavement. I saw it happen.”

Oh God,” said Tim. “I’m sorry. You’ve never really mentioned him before.” He squeezed my hand.

I said, “I suppose the subject just never came up. Until you asked, that is. I’ve never known how to talk about it without worrying that I’m upsetting someone else.”

Someone else?”

I nodded. “No one ever seemed to want to talk to me about it. It’s as if they think you’re going to crack up if they do. I just got used to shutting up about it. Until I met Catherine and Zara, that is. That’s the first time anyone wanted to talk about me. Before that… well, I got attracted to other people’s problems and tried to solve them instead. It’s like some kind of self-nurturing by proxy. But it doesn’t really work.”

As the story continues, we learn more about some of the challenges Lizzie has overcome and why she feels like she spends her life swimming against the current. The characters are so real you’ll swear it’s a true story, especially Lizzie’s close friends Catherine and Zara. Mancini delicately deals with issues like grief, mental illness, trauma, child abuse, neglect, and loss in a way that captivates readers. She weaves in  hope, humor, love, friendship, and courage to make Swimming Upstream a wonderful read.


Mancini’s writing style is poignant and has a soothing flow that draws you in. There is a lot of emotion in the story that feels heavy sometimes, but you come through each of those times appreciating what it took to make it.



Being alone, I discovered, is a state of mind. At its best it brings serenity. It could recreate for me the sunshine days of my solitary youth, when all I needed as friends were my books and the fields at the back of the house where we lived… 

Other times, being alone was just plain lonely and hard work to boot. 


Swimming Upstream is currently for sale on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Kobo Books. Ruth Mancini maintains a blog about happiness and living life on RuthMancini.com. Connect with Ruth on Facebook and Twitter. Media inquires should contact SJ Publicity.

Excerpts printed with permission.


About the Author

Sarka-Jonae Miller is a publisher author, freelance writer, and book marketing manager. She was trained in critique writing at the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has provided book and movie reviews to a variety of websites, but now writes her own for her BetweenBoyfriendsBlog.com and for Natural News. Sarka-Jonae’s debut novel, Between Boyfriends, is out now, and the sequel, Between the Sheets, is expected in early 2014.

Sarka Jonae
Sarka-Jonae is a novelist, personal trainer, massage therapist, and fitness writer. Her debut novel, BETWEEN BOYFRIENDS, will be published in October 2013. SJ writes for NaturalNews.com, AskTheTrainer.com, LiveStrong.com, and her own blog, NaturalHealingTipsBlog.com.