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How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly Hardcover – April 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (April 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446540684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446540681
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,583,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this gloomy novel, Fowler (Before Women Had Wings) presents a day in the life of writer Clarissa Burden, stuck in a loveless marriage and preoccupied with a joyless childhood. Memories of a cruel mother aren't the only things haunting Clarissa; a number of ghosts, including the 19th-century biracial family who had lived in Clarissa's Florida home, also weave themselves into Clarissa's story. Plagued by writer's block and suspicious of her photographer husband (and the nude models he employs), Clarissa leaves home for a day filled with spooky cemeteries, near-death experiences, life-altering conversations, exhilaration, and frustration. The plot tends to meander, incorporating not just incorporeal spirits but occasional jaunts into the minds of Florida's animals; still, Fowler produces some singularly memorable characters. By the time Clarissa stands up to her husband, readers will have suffered mightily through a sweltering Florida solstice, listening to the heroine's witty, sometimes whiney, internal monologue, and wishing for some real action. Fortunately, Fowler delivers on that wish, bringing together all her characters—dead, alive, and imagined—for an explosive conclusion. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Florida novelist Clarissa Burden is suffering from writer’s block. She lacks no creativity when daydreaming up death scenarios for her philandering buffoon of a husband, but when it comes time to put fingers to keyboard, her mind is blank. However, on June 21, 2006 (the longest, hottest day of the year), Clarissa will encounter no less than a multitude of ghosts, a one-armed angel, a one-eyed man, a sexy young love interest, a dwarf circus, and a host of critters. Each one in some way will grant her the courage it will take to escape the dull monotony of her day-to-day existence and write a new story. As in Sugar Cage (1992) and Before Women Had Wings (1996), Fowler lends magic and voice to the singular Florida landscape. In addition, this time she blurs the line between the written and the writer as we witness Clarissa’s brave discovery that the real truth is often the most risky tale to tell. --Annie Bostrom

More About the Author

Connie May Fowler is an award-winning novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter. Grand Central Publishing will publish her most recent novel, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, April 2, 2010. She is the author of six other books: five critically acclaimed novels and one memoir. Her novels include Sugar Cage, River of Hidden Dreams, The Problem with Murmur Lee, Remembering Blue--recipient of the Chautauqua South Literary Award--and Before Women had Wings--recipient of the 1996 Southern Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Buck Award from the League of American Pen Women. Three of her novels have been Dublin International Literary Award nominees. Ms. Fowler adapted Before Women had Wings for Oprah Winfrey. The result was an Emmy-winning film starring Ms. Winfrey and Ellen Barkin. In 2002 she published When Katie Wakes, a memoir that explores her descent and escape from an abusive relationship. Her work has been translated into 18 languages and is published worldwide. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, London Times, International Herald Tribune, Japan Times, Slate, Oxford American, Best Life, and elsewhere. For two years she wrote "Savoring Florida," a culinary and culture column for FORUM, a publication of the Florida Humanities Council. In 2007, Ms. Fowler performed in New York City at The Player's Club with actresses Kathleen Chalfont, Penny Fuller and others in an adaptation based on The Other Woman, an anthology that contains her essay "The Uterine Blues." In 2003, Ms. Fowler performed in The Vagina Monologues alongside Jane Fonda and Rosie Perez in a production that raised over $100,000 for charity. She is currently working on her next project, a novel titled Euphrates in Paradise. In addition to writing, Ms. Fowler has held numerous jobs including bartender, food caterer, nurse, television producer, TV show host, antique peddler, and construction worker. From 1997-2003 she directed the Connie May Fowler Women Wings Foundation, an organization dedicated to aiding women and children in need. From 2003-2007 she served as the Irving Bacheller Professor of Creative Writing at Rollins College and directed their award-winning visiting author series Winter With the Writers. Ms. Fowler travels the country, speaking on topics such as writing, self-employment in the arts, literacy, domestic violence, child abuse, environmental issues, and popular culture. She teaches writing workshops and seminars globally and is the founder of Below Sea Level: Full Immersion Workshops for Serious Writers. She is a Florida native.

Customer Reviews

I found the ending somewhat surprising, though also rather unbelievable.
LH422
This is such a beautiful tale of a a woman who has been dragged down by her husband and was able to find the strength to rise above everything and get her life back!
Rhiannon Ragland
There's a touch of magical realism in this unique and highly original tale, and the eccentric characters are delightful.
Beth Hoffman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gaby at Starting Fresh blog VINE VOICE on April 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I admit that when I read about Clarisse Burden in her large, well cared for and beautifully proportioned house with a husband frolicking with nude models in the garden, I didn't sympathize with Clarisse. I kept wanting her to get angry and kick the deadbeat out of her house!

But as Clarisse's personal history, wit and personality unfolded, I slowly sympathized and could understand why she didn't call her husband on his ludicrous behavior. Albeit, I kept hoping that she would. Getting to know Clarisse - her kindness and generosity to the young reporter, her wry internal voice, and interest in her surroundings - helped draw me in.

Once I got into it, I thoroughly enjoyed How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly. Clarissa's voice is smart, observant, and a little sad. As she focuses on other people and their stories, she becomes engaged and you see how Clarissa was able to write stories that touched people's lives. If you're looking for an unusual absorbing read, I highly recommend How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly.

ISBN-10: 0446540684 - Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (April 2, 2010), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on April 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In Hope, Florida, as the summer solstice proves to be the hottest day of the year, thirtyish successful novelist Clarissa Burden wonders how her life could be so miserable. She knows the reason is her envious spouse Igor "Igy" Dupuy, a failed multimedia artist who draws nudes in an effort to bed them. He has replaced her mother as her personal put down artist.

Clarissa needs to escape from his indifference, but sees no hope in doing so. However, she is unaware that the house she shares with the brute also contains ghosts. She and the spirits want freedom so on the longest day of the year, the heat inside the Burden home has become hotter than hell.

This is a whimsical character tale that grips the audience once the stage is set as the reader will want to know whether Clarissa, suffering from writer's block and spousal cruelty, is losing her mind or do ghosts, a carnival cast and animals communicate with her. Fans will relish Clarissa as she seeks escaping her troubles by learning to fly solo the hard way.

Harriet Klausner
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christine J. Zegelis on April 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Successful writer Clarissa Burden may live in Hope, FL but hope is not necessarily a word in her vocabulary when referring to her own life. She is experiencing writer's block, her husband. Iggy, mostly ignores her (as he paints naked "models" in the backyard) unless he is acknowledging her presence with complete disdain, her new house is beautiful but possibly haunted, she has an obsessed fly that is stalking her, her only mode of transportation is full of six months of trash, and there is a very odd one-armed stranger (angel?) offering his tree-cutting services. Clarissa's memories of her horrible, abusive childhood has left her with a lack of self-esteem and a "do I deserve more?" attitude.

How Clarissa Burden Learned to Flyby Connie May Fowler follows Clarissa's day on the summer solstice and oh, how 24 hours can change everything. A rendezvous with a handsome author friend, a trip to the dump and almost drowning in a sunken grave full of quick mud are just some of the unsuspecting events that lead Clarissa on a journey to change her life and allow her to finally fly.

My initial reaction to this book after the first 40 pages or so was confusion and curiosity. I was not sure if I would actually like the main character of Clarissa as she played such a victim of past and present circumstances. I was hoping this would not be the tone of the entire story. It did not take long for me to become completely immersed in this story and to completely become engaged with Clarissa and each and every character - I hated some and laughed at and with others. There was so much more to Clarissa then a dud just letting life run her over.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LH422 VINE VOICE on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Set on a single day, the summer solstice, this novel chronicles the empowerment and awakening of one Clarissa Burden. A successful novelist, Clarissa has found herself at age thirty-five in an unhappy and abusive marriage. She suffers from tremendous writer's block, while her husband ogles naked women in the name of "art." Clarissa's life gave her no reason to expect any better, as she grew up with a destitute and abusive mother. A series of encouters on the summer solstice will change this. Given the book's title, the basics of the plot probably come as no surprise. Where the surprise does come is in that these encounters are pushed by ghosts, of the family who lived and died in Clarissa's house, among others. I definitely found this to be one of the better fictionalized treatments of the supernatural world interfering with the mortal. The ghostly parts of the story fit, and they aren't forced. I found the ending somewhat surprising, though also rather unbelievable. Generally this was a good read, not my very favorite book, but definitely worth my time to read.
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