"The Dive from Clausen's Pier is one of those small miracles that reinforce our faith in fiction. It does what the best novels so often do, making the largest things visible by its perfect rendering of life on the smaller scale. It is witty, tragic and touching, and beguiling from the first page." --Scott Turow A riveting novel about loyalty and self-knowledge, and the conflict between who we want to be to others and who we must be for ourselves.Carrie Bell has lived in Wisconsin all her life. She's had the same best friend, the same good relationship with her mother, the same boyfriend, Mike, now her fiance, for as long as anyone can remember. It's with real surprise she finds that, at age twenty-three, her life has begun to feel suffocating. She longs for a change, an upheaval, for a chance to begin again.
Packer's engrossing debut novel begins without ostentation. On Memorial Day, Carrie Bell and her fianc , Mike Mayer, drive out to Clausen's Pier for their annual ritual, a picnic with their friends, a trip they make the way a middle-aged couple might, in grudging silence. Before their resentments can be aired, Mike dives into too shallow water, suffering injuries that change their lives. If Mike survives, he will survive as a quadriplegic, and Carrie faces unexpected responsibilities. Ultimately, Carrie does what is both understandable and unthinkable. She leaves her hometown of Madison, Wis., and shows up on the doorstep of a friend in New York City. There she discovers a different world, different friends and a different self. The hovering question what will Carrie do Abandon Mike or return to him generates genuine suspense. Packer portrays her characters both New Yorkers and Madisonites deftly, and her scenes unfold with uncommon clarity. But if Packer has a keen eye, she has an even keener ear. The dialogue is usually witty; more important, it is always surprising, as if the characters were actually thinking one of the reasons they become as familiar to the reader as childhood friends. The recipient of several awards, Packer is also the author of Mendocino and Other Stories. Clearly, she has honed her skills writing short fiction. What is unexpected is the assurance she brings to a larger canvas. In quiet but beautiful prose, Packer tells a complex and subtly constructed story of friendship, love and the hold the past has on the present. This is the sort of book one reads dying to know what happens to the characters, but loves for its wisdom: it sees the world with more clarity than you do. (Apr.) Forecast: Packer has had a Cadillac career Yale, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the O. Henry Prize, work in the New Yorker and Ploughshares. All of this bodes well for sales, but stellar reviews and word of mouth will do most for this absorbing first novel. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
April 08, 2003
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
When something terrible happens to someone else, people often use the word "unbearable." Living through a child's death, a spouse's, enduring some other kind of permanent loss it's unbearable, it's too awful to be borne, and the person or people to whom it's happened take on a kind of horrible glow in your mind, because they are in fact bearing it, or trying to: doing the thing that it's impossible to do. The glow can be blinding at first it can be all you see and although it diminishes as years pass it never goes out entirely, so that late some night when you are wandering the back pathways of your mind you may stop at the sudden sight of someone up ahead, signaling even now with a faint but terrible light.
Mike's accident happened to Mike, not to me, but for a long time afterward I felt some of that glow, felt I was giving it off, so that even doing the most innocuous errand, filling my car with gas or buying toothpaste, I thought everyone around me must see I was in the middle of a crisis.
Yet I didn't cry. The first days at the hospital were full of crying Mike's parents crying, his brother and sister, and Rooster, maybe Rooster most of all but I was dry-eyed. My mother and Jamie told me it was because I was numb, and I guess that was part of it, numb and terrified: when I looked at him it was as if years had unwound, and I'd just met him, and I couldn't stand not knowing what was going to happen. But there was something else, too: everyone was treating me so carefully and solicitously that I felt breakable, and yet I wasn't broken. Mike was broken, and I wasn't broken. He was separate from me, and that was shocking.
He was in a coma. Thanks to the combination of drought and a newly banked-up shoreline, the water in Clausen's Reservoir had been three feet lower than usual. If he woke up, it would be to learn that he'd broken his neck.
But he didn't wake up. Days went by, and then it was a week, ten days, and he was still unconscious, lying in Intensive Care in a tiny room crowded with machines, more than I ever would have imagined. He was in traction, his shaven head held by tongs attached to weights, and because he had to be turned onto his stomach every few hours to avoid bedsores, his bed was a two-part contraption that allowed for this: a pair of giant ironing-board-shaped things that could sandwich him and flip him. Visiting hours were three p.m. to eight p.m., ten minutes per hour, two people at a time, but it seemed we'd no sooner get in to see him than the nurses would ask us to leave. It was as if, merely body now, he belonged to them.