Book of the month
Click below for an interview with Elaine Neil Orr.


Swimming Between Worlds is Bookclubz' Book of the Month.

Use these discussion questions to guide your next meeting.

Tacker Hart left his home in North Carolina as a local high school football hero, but returns in disgrace after being fired from a prestigious architectural assignment in West Africa. Yet the culture and people he grew to admire have left their mark on him. Adrift, he manages his father's grocery store and becomes reacquainted with a girl he barely knew growing up. Kate Monroe's parents have died, leaving her the family home and the right connections in her Southern town. But a trove of disturbing letters sends her searching for the truth behind the comfortable life she's been bequeathed. On the same morning but at different moments, Tacker and Kate encounter a young African-American, Gaines Townson, and their stories converge with his. As Winston-Salem is pulled into the tumultuous 1960s, these three Americans find themselves at the center of the civil rights struggle, coming to terms with the legacies of their pasts as they search for an ennobling future.

Chapter One begins with the line “Tacker Hart came home from Nigeria to discover a town he almost knew.” Do you think Tacker ultimately understands the town more or less by the end of the novel? What are the factors that shape his changing consciousness?

Tacker and Kate meet Gaines on the same day but respond to him in very different ways. How does each character see Gaines initially, and why? How does this view of Gaines change over the course of the novel? Whose friendship surprised you the most?

The novel’s title, Swimming Between Worlds, emphasizes the important role that water plays in the story. How does water shape the lives of the main characters? What significance does the act of swimming hold in relation to the novel’s themes?


Swimming Between Worlds

“Swimming Between Worlds is a perceptive and powerful story told with generosity and grace. The struggle of its deftly-drawn young characters to navigate the monumental changes—cultural and personal—that the civil rights movement brought to the South is rich and compelling.” —New York Times bestselling author CHARLES FRAZIER “A novel of great humanity, “Swimming Between Worlds” contains neither a superficial nor a superfluous thought. Conceived with compassion and rendered with grace, it scores a triumph for its author and a blessing for her readers.” —Richmond Times Dispatch ". . . powerful, moving . . . Orr offers a beautifully wrought lesson about America’s troubled race relations and what it means to follow one’s conscience." —Greensboro News & Record "Orr has crafted an intelligent book that both challenges and entertains." —The News & Observer Elaine Neil Orr is an American writer who grew up in Nigeria. Both worlds converge in her novels, Swimming Between Worlds and A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa, and her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life. She is published widely in literary journals and anthologies and has been writer-in-residence at numerous universities, lecturing on writing and literature. She is on the faculty of English at N.C. State University where she won the Alumni Outstanding Research Award, 2019, for her fiction. In addition, she serves on the faculty of the Spalding University Brief-Residency MFA in Writing Program in Louisville. Learn more at This discussion guide is sponsored by the author.