The time has come to offer you my new memoir, DRYLAND: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety, now available for pre-order on Amazon. I’ve waited years, decades for this moment. Exactly how much time has gone into this book? Oh, just my entire lifetime.
Twenty years as a champion swimmer in Florida. One-and-a-half years as half-assed Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, featuring romps with a Jesuit Priest and a Danish boy. A reckless week with a Turkish man in Tanzania. A very divided year in Korea, during which time a friend was murdered possibly at the hands of another friend. Five unsettling years with a complicated man in Phoenix. A romantic night (and subsequent relationship, then friendship) with a U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C. Two decades in and out of Burlington, Vermont, including the wondrous moments I married my Music Man on the coast of Maine and gave birth to David Beauregard in rural Virginia. Then there were six slippery months in Singapore. A short trip back to the DMZ to re-examine a number of 38th Parallel Lives. Ten transformative months in Abu Dhabi. Three peculiar days in Jordan. Three eye-opening days in Egypt. Four healing days in India. Four nauseous days in the Seychelles. Four anchoring days in Iceland.
Far too many of these adventures were fueled by booze. But on March 28, 2015, this washed-up swimmer decided to go dry in the Arabian desert. And she’s never looked back since, except to write and reflect.
So what will you read in DRYLAND? Tales of hangovers and layovers. Lovers and killers. Victory and vices. Swimming and drinking. Water and wine. Alzheimer’s and alcoholism. Christianity and Islam. Identity and landscape. Recovery and redemption.
Here’s how the back cover of the book describes my liquid years and the one day in the desert that changed everything:
For swimming champion Nancy Stearns Bercaw, the pool was a natural habitat. But on land, she could never shake the feeling of being a fish out of water. Starting at age two, Nancy devoted her life to swimming, even qualifying for the 1988 Olympic Trials in the fifty-meter freestyle event. But when she hung up her cap and goggles, she was confronted with a different kind of challenge: learning who she was out of the lanes.
In this honest, intimate memoir, Nancy reflects on her years wandering the globe, where tragic events and a lost sense of self escalate her dependence on booze. Thirty-three years after her first sip of alcohol, the swimmer comes to a stunning realization while living with her husband and son in Abu Dhabi—she’s drowning in the desert. Nancy looks to the Bedouin people for the strength to conquer one final opponent: alcohol addiction.
And here’s what one of my favorite authors, Leigh Newman, author of “Still Points North” and book reviewer for Oprah.com, has to say about the story:
A brave, honest, adventurous memoir that keeps you turning pages as Bercaw travels around the world and rediscovers what it really means to win… at life.
To me, DRYLAND is a love letter to the sea and the sand, to my son and our limited time under the sun. My hope, in the end, is that David will make the most of every time, place and relationship — which might require finding the courage to turn away from whatever threatens to take him under. A lesson we all have to learn in our own time.