Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Dive From Clausen's Pier

This is easily one of my most favourite books. This is a story that reminds us of how precious life is and how easily (and tragically) it can change. There will be a time in our lives where we will be faced at a cross-road and we must decide which route to take knowing that this can be a life-altering decision. Do we choose the path that is to our best interest, or do we choose the path where we assume the role of martyr (placing ourselves in our own personal and suffocating hell), where the needs and wants of those around us will forever come before our own?

Sometimes people fall into a monotonous pattern in their life. This is something that could work perfectly for some, but in time can prove to be trying for others. You grow up with the same people around you. The same friends. The same hang outs. You date your highschool sweetheart, go to college with your highschool sweetheart, and become engaged to your highschool sweetheart because it just seems like the logical step to take. You haven't set foot out of your home town because everything you have or would ever want is right there, so why leave? Why explore? For some, this life could be the most comforting in the world. But for others, and for the main character of the story, Carrie Bell, this could prove to be a life that you can't get away from fast enough.

Carrie is engaged to her high school sweetheart but has fallen out of love with him. She is devastated by this discovery because the last thing she wants to do is hurt him. And funnily enough she feels torn since they share the same friends and doesn't want to hurt that dynamic as well. When she finally comes to grips with how she feels and finally decides that she can't go on living this lie and that she must tell her fiance, tragedy hits in the most unexpected way. They, along with their friends, are spending time at Clausen's Pier. Mike (her fiance) senses Carrie is slipping away. He decides that he's going to dive off the pier in an attempt to impress her. Only he doesn't realize that the water is not that deep and there are rocks at the bottom of the lake. He shouldn't be diving head first. Only he does, and he becomes paralyzed. A quadriplegic. People expect Carrie to be the caregiver for Mike, but unable to justify it to herself and unable to shake the feeling that she doesn't belong there (and having wanted to leave before the accident), she goes to New York to find herself. She has hurt a lot of people in the process who feel she is running away from her responsibilities, but it is something she must do for herself.

This story is about Carrie's journey to self-realization. It is a story about taking responsibility not because you HAVE to but because you WANT to. Eventually, Carrie's past catches up with her and she is forced to make a decision of what is best for her and for the situation at hand. Is she able to forget the past and start a new life? Or are her roots too deeply embedded?

Here is an excerpt of the book:

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.

A national bestseller, Ann Packer was definitely able to write this story in such a way that can make you want to both root Carrie on in her attempts to find herself during such a tumultuous period and want to simultaneously hit her upside the head.


ARM said...

Great. Now I have another book to add to my never-ending list! This sounds like a great book and one that I would enjoy. And excellent review, Airam!!

We must be on the same wave length today because when you sent the notice that this was posted, I was just finishing up a review for the book I finished reading today!

Airam said...

Thanks! I read this book in 2003 and I can't find it! I lent it out to someone but can't remember who and I really want to read it again. I guess I better hit the library ...

Pam said...

Oh, this is one of my very favorite books and I recommend it to most everyone. They later made a made-for-TV movie for the story. I didn't think it did the book justice.

Airam said...

I didn't watch the tv movie for it because I don't want it to ruin it for me.

The Exception said...

I read this book because there was nothing else to read one day - having tried not to read it for so very long.

I am glad I read it. It was surprisingly good, well written, and well, good!

Megan said...

I've never heard of this book until now. Great review, Airam. Nicely written. Judging the quoted passage alone, I don't know if I can take all those long sentences (it's ok to use semi-colons peeps!), but that middle paragraph hit home for me. This is the part I could most relate to: 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.

Really interesting concept for a story. Now I want to pick this one up.

Just Jamie said...

I can't wait to read this book! It sounds very emotional though!!!