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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.
With humour, wisdom and tenderness, Ann Packer offers ten short stories about women and men--wives and husbands, sisters and brothers, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends, and lovers--who discover that life's greatest surprises may be found in that which is most familiar. In the title story, on the anniversary of their father's suicide a young woman discovers that her brother may have found a "reason for living" in the love of a good woman. In "Nerves," a young man realizes that the wife he is separated from no longer loves him but that it is his own life he misses, not her. The narrator of "My Mother's Yellow Dress" is a gay man remembering his deceased mother and their vital and troubling intimacy. In "Babies", a single woman in her mid-thirties finds that everyone, including her best friend at work, is pregnant, and that their joy can only be observed, not shared. In these and six other stories, Ann Packer exhibits an unerring eye for the small ways in which people reveal themselves and for the moments in which lives may be transformed.
Liz and Sarabeth have been friends forever, childhood neighbours bound together in adolescence by a devastating event, the suicide of Sarabeth's mother when the girls were just sixteen. In the decades that followed - through Liz's marriage and the birth of her children, through Sarabeth's depressions and her volatile love affairs - their relationship has remained a source of continuity and strength, a fixed point amid the tumult of their adult lives. But when an unforeseen calamity strikes at the heart of Liz's family, all the assumptions - the deepest habits of their friendship - are revealed in a strange new light, and Liz and Sarabeth must question everything they thought they knew about each other and themselves. Ann Packer's new novel expertly explores the inequities between close friends, the unspoken roles, hidden expectations and deep resentments that can be violently exposed by a true crisis, and the endurance and limits of bonds forged in childhood.
From Ann Packer, author of the New York Times best-selling novels The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words, a collection of burnished, emotionally searing stories, framed by two unforgettable linked narratives that express the transformation of a single family over the course of a lifetime.A wife struggles to make sense of her husband's sudden disappearance. A mother mourns her teenage son through the music collection he left behind. A woman shepherds her estranged parents through her brother's wedding and reflects on the year her family collapsed. A young man comes to grips with the joy--and vulnerability--of fatherhood. And, in the masterly opening novella, two teenagers from very different families forge a sustaining friendship, only to discover the disruptive and unsettling power of sex.Ann Packer is one of our most talented archivists of family life, with its hidden crevasses and unforeseeable perils, and in these stories she explores the moral predicaments that define our social and emotional lives, the frailty of ordinary grace, and the ways in which we are shattered and remade by loss. With Swim Back to Me, she delivers shimmering psychological precision, unfailing intelligence, and page-turning drama: her most enticing work yet.From the Hardcover edition.
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