I recently finished reading The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer. This is another book that's been making it's way through Book Swap for awhile now. Everyone who's read it has really liked it, so I grabbed it when it came around last time.
The book is about Mike & Carrie, high school sweethearts, fresh out of undergrad & engaged to be married. In the first few pages of the book, Mike breaks his neck. Carrie, who was already having second thoughts about marrying Mike, has a complete breakdown & flees to New York. I obviously won't give away how it ends, but it's pretty heart-wrenching.
I kind of loved this book. The beginning, when Mike breaks his neck, reminded me so much of the first season of Friday Night Lights. And then later, when Carrie ends up in NYC, I sooo identified with that. I guess it's possible that everyone who picks up & moves to NYC one day has a similar story of wandering around the city, not knowing anybody, not spending any money because you don't know how long it's going to take to find a job, & living basically as a squatter in someone else's apartment. Reading this book brought back such of flood of memories of my time in NYC, mostly my first few months there when I was aimlessly wandering around the city starving for someone to talk to me, or just look at me.
Again, I really enjoyed this book. It's not a long book & I read it in a few days. I couldn't put it down. Also, kind of hilariously, there's a 2005 Lifetime movie of this book, which I may or may not have just added to the # 1 slot in my Netflix queue...
Packer's engrossing debut novel begins without ostentation. On Memorial Day, Carrie Bell and her fiance, 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. 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.
Loved this book! I give it 4 out of 5 stars.