Tag Archives: Ann Packer

READING: The Dive From Clausen’s Pier

27 Dec

Reading: The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer

Why you should read it: Theme

(Photo Credit)

I’m a very avid reader, though I do suffer from the go-go-go mentality of the rest of nation/world, meaning I don’t take as much time as I should to enjoy the things I like, such as reading. However, now that I’m older and looking toward a career that is centered around writing, I’m taking time to go back and look at old favorites and figure out what it was about them that made me so attracted to writing in the first place.

I read Packer’s The Dive From Clausen’s Pier when I was a senior in high school, so not so very long ago. I’ve probably read it four or five times since then, and it’s time to revisit it again. The book is about Carrie, a young woman who recently graduated college. She’s been with her boyfriend, Mike, since they were high school students. As the novel begins, Carrie laments about how stuck she feels. She’s been with the same man, had the same friends and been in Madison, Wisconsin for years. What’s worse is she and Mike are engaged, but she’s not sure she even loves him anymore.

She, Mike and their friends go to Clausen’s Pier Memorial Day weekend. Mike dives off the pier and suffers a terrible neck and spine injury, and becomes quadriplegic. For a while Mike and Carrie pretend they don’t know their relationship has come to an end. Carrie struggles to stay by Mike’s side, not because of his injury, but because what was between them has faded. Carrie throws herself into anything else: her sewing, her work, her mother, as long as it keeps her away from Mike.

After running into a friend from high school, Simon, who now lives in New York City, Carrie gets in her car, and heads for New York too, without a warning word for anyone—including Mike. Carrie’s fresh start awards her with new friends, new places—and a whole new life. Including a mysterious and enigmatic lover, Kilroy.

Carrie dances between Kilroy and Mike, New York and Madison, and tries to find herself along the way. Her guilt keeps telling her to go back, but her freedoms and her love for the city keep telling her to stay. I won’t say here what Carrie ultimately does, but Packer weaves a wonderful tale to get her there.

I think this is an appropriate time to think about this book, or at least is for me. With a new year beginning soon, and another behind us, this is always the time people start thinking about how they’d like to change (coughNew-Year’s-Resolutionscough), and that’s what The Dive from Clausen’s Pier is, thematically. It’s all about change, and Packer writes perfectly about all that encompasses change—how it’s terrifying and exhilarating and thrilling all at once.

I often think of this book and Carrie’s journey along with this quote by William James: “To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.” What’s great about The Dive From Clausen’s Pier is that Carrie does just that. I’m not saying that she’s right. And I’m not saying that she’s wrong. I’m just saying that Packer paints a picture of someone choosing their own life, and she does it deftly.

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