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The Dive From Clausen's Pier [Hardcover]

Ann Packer
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (313 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 9 2002 Vintage Contemporaries
"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 fiancé, 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.

That chance is granted to her, terribly, when Mike is injured in an accident. Now Carrie has to question everything she thought she knew about herself and the meaning of home. She must ask: How much do we owe the people we love? Is it a sign of strength or of weakness to walk away from someone in need?

The Dive from Clausen’s Pier reminds us how precarious our lives are and how quickly they can be divided into before and after, whether by random accident or by the force of our own desires. It begins with a disaster that could happen, out of the blue, in anybody’s life, and it forces us to ask how we would bear up in the face of tragedy and what we know, or think we know, about our deepest allegiances. Elegantly written and ferociously paced, emotionally nuanced and morally complex, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier marks the emergence of a prodigiously gifted new novelist.

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From Amazon

Carrie Bell is the worst person in the world. Or so she would have you think. In the gripping, carefully paced debut novel of personal epiphany, The Dive from Clausen's Pier, by O. Henry Award winner Ann Packer, Carrie's very survival is dependent upon her leaving her fiancé, even after he dives into shallow water at a Memorial Day picnic and becomes paralyzed. Things hadn't been going so well for the Madison, Wisconsin, high school and college sweethearts. Carrie knew, deep down, that she wasn't going to become Mrs. Michael Mayer. But expectations and pressure from all sides--his family, her mother, her best friend Jamie, Mike's best friend Rooster--force Carrie to shut herself up in her room and sew outfits of her own design as if in a trance. Then one night she slips out of the only universe she's ever known. Many hours later she finds herself on the doorstep of a high school classmate living in Manhattan. Carrie's adventures in the city--quirky roommates and a new romance with an older, emotionally impenetrable man--confuse her in her quest both to forgive herself and to embark on a career in fashion design. Packer writes in a convincing voice and packs a lot into this novel; she infuses Carrie with enough humanity and smarts to choose her own version of "happily ever after." --Emily Russin

From Publishers Weekly

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. 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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
MIKE ALWAYS TEASED me about my memory, about how I could go back years and years to what people were wearing on a given occasion, right down to their jewelry or shoes. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unrealistic!! June 13 2003
Format:Paperback
True that this book was a good read, a quick read is probably better but it was very unrealistic. Her main character, a 20 something, self involved, midwestern girl was not very likeable. I agree, everyone needs to find themselves but the way Packer has her heroine do it is disjointed at best. How convenient that she takes off for New York and happens to find a place to live without rent, that she happens to find Kilroy, she has no worries about walking about the city, her safety, or money. She is ALLOWED to find herself at her leisure. She comes and goes out of people's lives at will, seemingly ruining them, and is, for the most part, forgiven by them. That is not real life, not for anyone. Her emotions are banal and the dialogue is fragmented and nonsubstantive. The library did not have the books I wanted to read so I picked this one up and recommend that if you like some meat to your books, this won't do the trick. If, however, you need to be mildly amused this is the book for you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dive right in . . . July 18 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is by far one of the best books I have read. The only other two that I recently came across which were as good were "The Bark of the Dogwood" and "The Lovely Bones." As someone who has little time for pleasure reading, I found this book to be nowhere near a waste of time and definitely not boring. The characters are complicated and dramatic enough to be novel material, yet realistic enough to relate to.Carrie Bell was faced with a choice - she can stay with the quadrapalegic fiancee that she had been thinking about breaking up with before his accident, or she can leave. She chooses to leave and for that she has to face the consequences of emotional guilt from her friends and from herself. I liked this book because it made me think about Carrie's situation and what I would have done. Also recommended: The Bark of the Dogwood.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Flawless book July 17 2004
Format:Paperback
I just finished this book today. I have nothing bad to say about it. This book is so interesting and tackles such an interesting subject, Packer writes beautifully, and I absolutely could not put it down until I was finished. I think that the reader who said it was so boring they couldn't keep reading... lacks literary maturity...perhaps that reader was too young to appreciate it. I rarely recommend books to my friends but I will definitely recommend this. I think a good book (or a good movie) is one that you will think back to one day, long after you have read it, and I am sure I will think back to this one. Another criteria I have is that a bad book, I could put down in the middle and forget about it and not even care what happens at the end. But with this book, I was genuinely interested in what was going to happen to all the characters. The book made me think. I am also eagerly awaiting the author's next book. I can't believe this is her FIRST novel! It was impressive in every sense- plot, dialogue, everything. A++++++++
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Book...It's A Journey you need to go on... July 12 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
It's been 14 years since I last picked up a book, just to read for enjoyment. So why am I writing this review? I want to share a book that made me read. That made me ENJOY reading again. But this time with great passion for the written word.
Why did I choose this book? As my three old would say, "Just because." No rhyme or reason, no great prodding from friends as "you must read this book!" I remember Charles Gibson & Diane Sawyer announce this last yr. on Good Morning America, for their "READ THIS" Book Club. The title always stayed in the back of my mind. All I wanted was a book I just didn't want to put down. I wanted to get lost for awhile...
It's a story that will take you on a journey you never thought you would end up taking. Carrie Bell, a woman knowing that there is something out there calling her. What that something is, only she will know. It will hit her with a force that is numbing, stinging, painful, soothing, and uplifting. Mike Mayer, her fiance of eight years, knows that their love is the real deal. But he senses the long casting shadows of change. Just as the Autumn season brings to Madison, WI. There are a cast of characters that we all know in our own lives, that fill Carrie's life. The impact, the footsteps that are left behind when they walk in and out of Carrie's world. But Carrie's mother, a woman who has her own sense of balance, shows her that sometimes you must listen to the quietness that life brings. It's that quietness that brings strength to Carrie.
This book gripped me like nothing before. I've been longing for a book that would quietly call me. In the darkness of the early morning hours, I found myself yearning to grasp this book and devoring it like a fine meal with all it's richness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story and characters June 29 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is the tale of small-town girl Carrie Bell, who has had the same friends and boyfriend since she was in high school. At 23, this no longer seems like such a good thing, and she longs for a change of pace. She is contemplating leaving her fiance, but tragedy strikes, and he becomes a quadrepalegic after a silly diving accident. She must decide whether to do the right thing, and stay with him, or be true to herself, and leave.
This story revolved around this complicated question. I have read several reviews where Carrie is torn to shreds for what readers have characterized as her coldness and selfishness. To me, this quality is not descriptive of Carrie. She makes some choices that hurt people, but I viewed her as the most troubled character in the novel.
Also, I disagree with reviewers who said the dialogue was poorly written. As I read, I was thinking just the opposite: the dialogue sounded so authentic that I could imagine talking with my friends that way. I thought this novel was beautifully written all the way around, from dialogue to descriptions to the richly-developed characters of Carrie and her acquaintances. I also loved the sewing metaphors.
This is a fast-paced but thought-provoking story that I simply couldn't put down. I am eagerly awaiting the next novel from this author.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars painfully addictive
This book is extremely compelling, even with oveflowing, and sometimes seemingly useless, detail. While I found it heart-breaking in more ways then one, it's not only a good read,... Read more
Published on June 28 2004 by "sweetcitrus17"
2.0 out of 5 stars The first half is so boring I don't know if I can go on
This book is so over-filled with so many details and descriptions that are actually distracting from what could be a good story. Read more
Published on June 23 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't stop thinking about this one
There are not many books that I bother to write reviews on but this one is worth my time (there were only two others in all). Carrie is a wonderful character. Read more
Published on June 11 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading experience
Wonderfully written, this book had me from the first sentence. I had heard so much about Ann Packer but never seemed to get around to her. Boy and I glad I did. Read more
Published on June 6 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A dive into some beautiful prose
I have two friends who are married to paraplegics, and they say it ain't like this, that it's not realistic. But as a book, a story, The Dive from Claussen's Pier works just fine. Read more
Published on June 5 2004 by Peggy Vincent
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and compelling!
The Dive from Clausen's Pier is a beautiful, well written story of 23-year-old Carrie Bell, a young woman from Madison, Wisconsin. Read more
Published on May 28 2004 by CoffeeGurl
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh Please......!
The author had the opportunity to make a rich novel. Instead it is a book that will eventually make its way to the clearance table at the bookstore.
Published on May 17 2004 by snowblaze
2.0 out of 5 stars The Shameful Main Character
Carrie Bell has to be the most selfish woman I have ever read. I was outraged at her behavior when her fiance is tragically injured in a diving accident. Read more
Published on May 2 2004 by Kay Bunny
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engrossing, and yet...something's missing
Unlike many novels told in the first person, I did not find Carrie to be particularly self reflective, but rather selfish and self indulgent. Read more
Published on May 2 2004 by P. Heaphy
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