Fig Swims the World by Lou Abercrombie

Written by Lou Abercrombie
Published by Stripes, April 2020

Fig, known as Lemony to her mother, has set herself a mammoth resolution! She has decided to swim the world! Never mind that she cannot swim and has a fear of the water. No small feat but we learn quickly not to underestimate Fig.

Fig gets bullied at school, called names and avoided by the popular gang. She also gets bullied at home by her mother. Mubla has incredibly high standards and expectations on Fig, none of which Fig seems to live up to. Constantly under surveillance, and criticised, Fig is coming to the end of her tether.

Opportunity and fate provide Fig with plenty of chances to learn to swim. A chance meeting at the swimming pool introduces Fig to the wonderful Sage. Sage helps Fig to overcome her fears and invites her to join a swimming club. The pair become fast friends and soon Fig is spending more and more time with Sage and her twin sister Myrtle.

As Fig meticulously plans and budgets for her swim around the world, I was worried about how a 15 year old was actually going to accomplish this incredible challenge. However, I need not have worried as opportunities fall into place for Fig as though the universe is behind her and rooting for her the entire time.

As Fig runs away and begins her swimming challenge we see her learn to be independent, to trust her instincts, and to stand up for herself. All the things she was missing from living under Mubla’s rule, and those that will ensure she succeeds. These same skills are exactly what Fig needs to finally stand up to Mubla.

We follow Fig around the world and see her cross off items on her list, sticking close to her budget and making new friends. These friends will prove to be lifelines on her journey, though not all are good friends initially, though they challenge her to continue.

I love this story and how parts of it are told via Fig’s instagram account- all the while trying to maintain a low profile so barrister Mubla can’t find her and drag her home. Of course, it was inevitable that Mubla would find her but what happens next is extraordinary.

There is so much heart and hope in this book- Fig just exudes them both- desperate for love from her mother but finding it from others. Fig and her friends are full of hope that she can complete her challenge and rise above the limitations set by her mother. At times, sad and heart wrenching, balanced with happiness and jubilation each time a swim is crossed off the list.

Fig will discover new and hidden talents on her journey, but will Mubla appreciate them too?

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