While others are stretching and reaching blindly for that first cup of morning coffee, legendary swimmer Lynne Cox is earning her breakfast with a miles-long unsupervised swim in the cold Pacific Ocean. This championship swimmer has dodged ocean liners, conquered channels, and written perceptively about it all in an acclaimed memoir, Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer. But her latest book, Grayson, isn't about the swimmer's restless drive to push some new boundary. Instead, it looks back on a morning 30 years ago a morning that started with a routine ocean workout. Cox isn't scared of much, but she did get nervous when she realized an enormous marine animal was stalking her.

Well, not stalking. The baby gray whale, Grayson, had lost its mother and fixed on Cox. Did he read her mind? Did he somehow intuit that, out of all the mammals in the sea, this one would not abandon him to his fate? Soon Cox's tale changes from that of a solitary swimmer, menaced ˆ la Jaws by a creature from the deep, to a desperate search for the mother gray whale. Shunting worries that the baby will starve or that she herself will go hypothermic and drown, Cox escorts Grayson through miles of ocean, looking for mom while Coast Guardsmen and fishermen scan the horizon for a solitary mother.

It leads to a tear-wrenching conclusion that could only have been lived and written by a woman unafraid to challenge the unknown in nothing but her swimsuit.

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