In September 1731, a feral child emerged from the woods in the Champagne region of France. Clothed in animal skins, with matted, unkempt hair, and wielding a small club, she ran like a hare, climbed trees like a cat, and ate leaves and raw meat. But who was Memmie LeBlanc? Where had she come from? How had she survived on her own in the wild? From the very first, mystery and controversy swirled around her and it still rages, as playwright Kathleen McDonnell discovers nearly three centuries later, when she begins researching the Wild Girl for a play. On a journey from the vineyards of France, to a Native-run casino in the American heartland of Iowa, and back to the catacombs of Paris, McDonnell begins to feel she’s living in a detective novel with bizarre, comic twists, startling revelations, and a colorful cast of characters; a librarian, a small-town mayor, a champagne vigneron, a surgeon-turned-amateur-historian, an Australian journalist, a feminist professor—a group spanning three continents.

Driven by a strong sense of kinship with the tragic Memmie LeBlanc—especially their shared love of cold-water swimming–McDonnell works for years writing an honor-winning historical play, but comes to realize there is another story begging to be told, involving academic rivalries, disappearing websites, small-town politics, and dark, brutal Canadian history. Swim Home is the fascinating result.

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