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Friday, December 15, 2006

The Dive from Clausen's Pier

The Dive from Clausen's Pier: A Novel by Ann Packer

9 of 17 people found the following review helpful:

June 16, 2005

The story of "The Dive From Clausen's Pier" is pretty much a cliche. It's the coming-of-age story where a Midwestern girl from Madison heads out to New York City because she finds life in Wisconsin dull and wants to find herself. The twist here is that Carrie leaves after her fiance is paralyzed after diving into the shallow water of Clausen's Resorvoir.

In the big city she stays with the prerequisite gay friend and has a relationship with the mysterious but sensitive stranger who calls himself Kilroy. Both seem kind of standard issue. Eventually Carrie takes some classes in fashion design and has a really great sex life with Kilroy. But as Al Pacino said (more or less) in Godfather 3, "Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in." But in the end Carrie seems to get her life back on track.

I read this entire book in two days, not because I really wanted to, but because I was stuck in jury duty and had nothing better to do. Nevertheless, I did always want to keep going to find out what Carrie was going to do--she wasn't really going to abandon everyone she loved in Madison for the glamor of the Big Apple, was she? Or was she?--and what the story with that Kilroy guy was. I found the answers somewhat vague and unsatisfying. At least the ending provided some direction about what would happen next.

Mostly I thought the writing was good. There were spots where I thought it to be too sophisticated for a 24-year-old girl interested in fashion design. And when the story got into the bedroom, I found the frank sex talk a little jolting. I suppose I'm a bit of a prude, but it always throws me for a loop when people in a book are having a fairly sweet and innocent date and as soon as it gets to the bedroom the author starts throwing around the F-word, touching certain parts of the male anatomy, sticking fingers into certain orifices, and certain sexual acts related to indiscretions of the previous presidential administration. It's like sitting in a PG-movie with your kid and all the sudden there's an NC-17-rated sex scene and you have to drag him out of the theater with your hands over his eyes. Or in other words, it's really surprising. In my mind it's not really necessary either. It's nice that Carrie and Kilroy are having great sex, but does that really matter to the story?

Anyway, my prudishness aside, the main reason I enjoyed this book (other than I was obviously starved for entertainment)is because I could identify with Carrie's issues. OK, I have no interest in fashion design, but I've felt in that place between childhood and adulthood where there's a vague notion of a greater world OUT THERE but you aren't sure how to get there. Carrie's deteriorating relationship with her best friend Jamie especially hit home, because I've felt that way with people, where it seems like I'm ready to grow up and they aren't. It can be frustrating when the subjects you've discussed for years and years are no longer interesting and you want to move on with your life but don't know how. That's what this book is about.

The thing about Mike's paralysis didn't seem to have much bearing on the story. Carrie was already going to leave Mike, that much seemed pretty clear. I think the dive for which the book takes its name was intended to punch up the drama, more than it was a necessary part of the story. If Carrie just up and left one day it wouldn't make for as interesting reading.

I just wish the end was more definitive, because it's not entirely clear to me what Carrie's plan really is. I'm not going to spoil the ending for you readers. Find out yourself. Read this book.

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