Dryland is a pun in several ways, and I love it. First, it refers literally to land, which for Nancy Stearns Bercaw, isn’t her natural place as a swimmer. She’s also in Abu Dhabi for most of the book – a desert. And it refers to be dry, as in sober. Nancy is with her family in Abu Dhabi and she finally realizes that she drinks way too much and that it’s actually a problem. Dryland is her journey to that realization, an examination of her past, and a look forward to what her life could be.
This memoir was sobering (pun very much intended). I grew up with an alcoholic father and while I was young, it wasn’t that big of a deal, because I was little and didn’t know anything. As I got older and I watched him get sober (thank goodness), I prayed that that wouldn’t be my life someday. That I would be able to drink normally and know when to stop and be able to stop. Thankfully, I haven’t had a problem — yet. I’m not ruling out the possibility at only 24 years old.
Dryland helped me understand my dad better. On some level, I’ve always understood that alcoholics really can’t help it and they just don’t know how to stop once they’ve gotten started. But reading Nancy Stearns Bercaw’s memoir helped me finally get it. Whatever your problems are, alcohol will probably make you feel better, not care anymore, or at the very least, fall asleep and avoid it.
Dryland is honest, heart-wrenching, and an around the globe adventure. At times it feels like a close friend is opening up about the roughest part of her life and the adventures she’s had long the way.
I highly recommend Dryland for everyone to read, whether or not you have a personal relationship with alcoholism. It never hurts to gain a new understanding about other people. It might make the world a more understanding place.
• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Grand Harbor Press (April 18, 2017)
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 after college, 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.
“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.” —Leigh Newman, author of Still Points North
About Nancy Stearns Bercaw
Writer and national champion swimmer Nancy Stearns Bercaw is a seventeen-time NCAA All-American athlete and was inducted into the University of South Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. Her writing has appeared in publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Korea Herald, U.S. News & World Report, Abu Dhabi’s Tempo magazine, and ScaryMommy.com. In addition to Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety, she is the author of Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey Through Her Father’s Memory and a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.