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The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud: A Novel Paperback – March 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553383256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553383256
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,411,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Questions for Ben Sherwood About Charlie St. Cloud

Q: Did you always imagine your book becoming a movie?
A: In a I quit a great job at NBC News in New York to write this book. It was a risky career move. I wish I could say the road was easy, but it wasn’t. There were major creative challenges and serious professional setbacks. Indeed, the route from blank page to the finished book might well be described as a near-death publishing experience. Perhaps that’s why I never really imagined this book becoming a movie. Indeed, the very idea of a film adaptation seemed farfetched. As one of my close friends always said: "I’ll believe Charlie St. Cloud is a movie when I’m sitting in the theater and eating popcorn."

Q: How involved were you with the movie and did you write the screenplay?
A: The producers and studio were generous to include me at many stages of the process but I wasn’t involved with the movie or screenplay. I was fortunate to visit the production twice, once on location in a cemetery and another time on a soundstage in Vancouver. Each time, I relished how filmmakers turned some of the book’s tiniest details into movie reality. For instance, Major League Baseball sent three small Red Sox mitts for Sam to use when he played catch with Charlie. I watched an assistant prop master carry a brand-new red mitt around all day, rubbing it constantly to give it a well-worn appearance.

On another occasion, the director showed me the closing shot of the film. Today, words still fail to describe the exhilarating experience of seeing Charlie and Tess literally sailing into the sunset. Seven years earlier, in the quiet of my little writing room, I had imagined these two young people on a boat aimed at the open ocean. Suddenly, they were on the screen, leaning into each other with wind tousling their hair and sails, steering a Gryphon Solo, one of the world’s fastest fifty-foot sailboats, filmed by a camera mounted on a helicopter hovering above.

Q: How does it feel to see your book turned into a movie?
A: Quite simply, I’m filled with gratitude. To create the movie version of Charlie St. Cloud, it took 28 actors, 34 stunt people, and some 250 crew. When I visited the set in Vancouver, I tried my best to thank every single one, including the wrangler responsible for a noisy flock of geese, the messy bane of Charlie’s existence.

When I called my wife in Los Angeles, she asked, "How does it feel?" I thought for a moment. Then I answered: "I want to hug every person I meet."

Q: Did you imagine Zac Efron as Charlie St. Cloud?
A: In candor, I never imagined Zac Efron in the role of Charlie. Wrecked by loss and grief, Charlie was a character who had wasted many years of his precious life. I always imagined Charlie as much older and much sadder. Thank goodness I’m not a movie producer.

I salute the studio and producers for realizing that Efron was a perfect choice. Young, dynamic, and charismatic, he embodies the promise of Charlie St. Cloud without the burden and loss. With Efron’s vibrant presence and performance, a sometimes weighty story feels more hopeful and uplifting. As I told Efron when we met in the cemetery in Vancouver, I’m delighted and very thankful that he took the part and filled it with vitality.

Q: How do you feel about the movie being made in Vancouver, Canada instead of Marblehead, Massachussetts, where the novel takes place?
A: I love Marblehead and the people of the town. While researching the book, I traveled to Marblehead several times to walk among the tombstones in Waterside Cemetery, eat breakfast with fishermen at the Driftwood before dawn, drink beers with 'Headers at Maddie's, and compete in my first and only sailboat race.

Vancouver is a country away from the wonderful town where I situated the story. But a movie adaptation isn't supposed to be a literal translation of a book. It's an interpretation. While I sincerely hoped that the film would be made in Massachusetts--and while the filmmakers tried their best too--I understood the financial decision to pick Canada, where production costs are significantly lower.

Given this choice, the filmmakers did a great job transplanting Charlie and Sam's story to the Pacific Northwest, which looks absolutely spectacular on film.

Q: Your writing seems to focus on questions of life and death. Why?
A: Maybe it's my age or life experience but I've spent a lot of time thinking about how we overcome grief and loss and make the most of our time on earth. These are subjects that have come to occupy my recent work. Over the last few years, I wrote a nonfiction book called The Survivors Club, exploring the secrets and science of the world’s most effective survivors and thrivers. Interviewing survivors around the world, I discovered even more proof that love is a powerful and universal survival tool. In my own life, falling in love with my future wife, Karen, helped unlock the stranglehold of my father’s sudden and untimely death 17 years ago. (That’s why I dedicated the book to both of them.) In Charlie's case, discovering Tess helped him break free of the cemetery and the suffocating grip of grief.

Q: You have two young sons. What do you hope they take away from this book some day?
A: When I was leaving the movie set in Vancouver to fly home to Los Angeles, one of the producers generously asked if I wanted a souvenir from the production. I asked for one of Sam’s red mitts from Major League Baseball. Our two young boys can play catch with it. Then some day when they outgrow it, the glove can sit in my office, a reminder of the power of brotherly love and what happens when you take risks, seize life, and set your imagination free.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Not even death can keep two brothers from meeting to play ball: it sounds like a sentimental TV movie, doesn't it? Actually, Sherwood's second novel (after The Man Who Ate the 747) is warmhearted but not maudlin, exploring the bonds between the living and the dead and the lengths to which we'll go for love. A secret jaunt to a Sox game ends in tragedy when Charlie St. Cloud, who isn't old enough for a driver's license, crashes the car he pinched from a neighbor. The hearts of Charlie and his younger brother, Sam, stop, but miraculously, Charlie is resuscitated. Thirteen years later, Charlie is 28 and working as the caretaker for the Marblehead cemetery where Sam is buried; he's also spending every evening playing catch with the ghost of 12-year-old Sam, who's putting off going to heaven for the game. Charlie's world gets shaken up, though, by feisty, beautiful Tess Carroll, a sailor who had plans to be one of the first women to circumnavigate the globe solo. They have a perfect date, and sparks fly. But then news comes that her boat is lost at sea, and Charlie, whose gift of seeing spirits has grown, realizes that her fading apparition is the result of a failing effort to rescue her. Sherwood tugs at readers' heartstrings throughout the novel, and the sentimentality mostly works. Charlie's final effort to save his lady love from ghostly oblivion strains credibility, of course, but isn't that the point of a tale about love triumphant?
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Once I started reading the book I couldn't put it down.
Kathleen Jones
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is an uplifting book that teaches us how to let go and move on in life after the death of a loved one.
It's a very special kind of story, and you only love the characters in it, and sympathise with them.
L. lundgård

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Tony Bellario on March 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Here's how good this book is: the second I finished it, I picked up the phone and called my brother, to whom I hadn't spoken in ten years! It moved me that much. Incredible.
The love between Charlie and Sam, their brotherly bond that literally defies death, is one of the most startlingly moving and beautiful relationships I've encountered.
And that's just ONE of the incredibly gorgeous and powerful relationships among the characters in this amazing book, only ONE of the zillion levels on which it works:
It's charming, funny, even quirky at times.
It gives such vivid descriptions of places I've never been, and now want to visit (hey Marblehead Chamber of Commerce: throw Sherwood a parade TODAY!).
It brought me into worlds I never knew I even cared about until now -- cemeteries, sailing, the Red Sox (this book made this diehard Yankee fan cry over some Sox fans -- now THAT'S saying something!).
It's just plain wonderfully written -- spare, light prose that sneaks up on you, and before you know it, BING, you're crying, laughing, the works.
I still recommend Sherwood's last book about the guy that eats the airplane. But now I have to recommend two books, because this one is a MUST READ!
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Rieback on April 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Having read Sherwood's "The Man Who Ate the 747," I was looking forward to reading this novel. However, it was a bit too sentimental for my tastes and was not as good as the author's previous book. Charlie St. Cloud has a near death experience after getting involved in a car collision that kills his younger brother Sam. After this experience, he can see the deceased while their earthbound spirits have yet to pass into the next plane of the afterlife. The years pass, and Charlie meets with Sam's spirit every evening at sundown, honoring a promise to stick by his brother forever. They spend their time together playing ball and hanging out in the cemetary where Charlie works. Then Tess enters Charlie's life after she narrowly escapes a watery end at sea when her sailing ship founders during a storm. Charlie is now torn between loyalty to Sam and his love for Tess.
The story is populated with a series of interesting and endearing characters, but the relationship between Charlie and Sam is idealized to the point of incredulity. There are some well written passages that make the reader feel the sea spray in their face and see the beauty of sunset over a harbor town. The description of the afterlife is a comforting one, and the concept of love transcending the boundaries of life and death is inspirational. This is a ghost story and an emotional love story, but taken together it is too unbelievable to fully work for me. It is suspenseful, but the author's manipulation of the story line to keep the reader guessing is transparently deliberate. The plot reminds me of a cross between the movies "Field of Dreams," "Ghost," and "Sixth Sense," but not as well executed. If you enjoy heartrending love stories and books like "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" you will probably enjoy this book. Have your tissues ready when you read it, since it is a real tear jerker.
Eileen Rieback
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wellen on June 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I love Ben Sherwood. I admit that upfront. He is a wonderful writer and "The Man who Ate the 747" is one of my favorite books. That spirit of wonder and love has not left the quill (I doubt he actually writes with a quill, but so what?). Charlie St. Cloud is a tougher read in that it deals so openly with death, loss, and well, it is set in a cemetary. I finished the book in tears (as usual with this writer) and cried a couple of other times. I read the book in just two sittings. Sherwood's style is deceptively simple (he does have an impressive vocabulary however). What amazes is that this kind of story--with life, death, the afterlife, so deftly pulled off. It largely avoids being maudolin or cliched. It is something of a miracle that this story works so beautifully. In the hands of someone else, it might not. Sherwood is so upbeat about life and I wish more of us had his optimism and understanding. His stories are very special. This is the kind of book that you may read again and again, especially after a tragedy. I loved Ferrio too and how he connects the main characters.
Another note, if you read the source notes and afterward, you learn more interesting things. For example, as with "747" the locations in the book are real. I love that. It seems that this book will be made into a film and it will work--in the right hands. Nevertheless, the book is almost always better right? The acknowledgements are fascinating...if you are a media geek some names will pop out,a former head of NBC, a top screen writer, an entertainment journalist, and even the creator of Alias and Felicity. This guy has some darned interesting friends. My favorite? The last lines about his family and his wife. Their love story might make a great story too--if he hasn't already put in books.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Yes America, there is a heaven. Just ask Charlie St. Cloud, an earthly saint who secretly helps the dead's transition through the "in between," which waits after life and into the great beyond --- the next world, heaven, nirvana, whatever you may call it.
As caretaker of Waterside Cemetery in the harbor village of Marblehead, Massachusetts, Charlie is the sandy blond, freckle-faced prince of a simple life in the safest of places. He tends the cemetery, plays catch with his younger brother Sam, enjoys quiet evenings at his forest-side cottage, watches the Sox and has his coffee each morning at the docks. The serenity is a thin blanket for Charlie's one big mistake, the accident that changed everything thirteen years ago.
Though he throws a mean curveball and likes a swim in the pond, Sam St. Cloud is dead. But Charlie sees and talks to him because Sam is just like Charlie's other cemetery acquaintances, the others in the "in between," a place where the newly departed and a few spiritual hangers-on await their time to pass onto the next astral plane. Charlie is their gentle yet unofficial guide in that confusing time a soul may experience when it has left its earthly shell.
The literary gatekeeper of world records, true love, miracles and hope, novelist Ben Sherwood (THE MAN WHO ATE THE 747) steps into the pastoral landscape of Thornton Wilder's OUR TOWN and Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life to explore the tortured lives of those who cannot let go and those who blame themselves for life's misfortunes. He describes Charlie's knowledge of the cemetery's spirits: "Folks often showed up bewildered ... Sometimes they didn't even comprehend that life was over and had to spend a few days figuring things out.
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