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The Dive From Clausen's Pier Hardcover – Numbered Edition, April 9, 2002

3.3 out of 5 stars 460 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Carrie Bell is the worst person in the world. Or so she would have you think. In the gripping, carefully paced debut novel of personal epiphany, The Dive from Clausen's Pier, by O. Henry Award winner Ann Packer, Carrie's very survival is dependent upon her leaving her fiancé, even after he dives into shallow water at a Memorial Day picnic and becomes paralyzed. Things hadn't been going so well for the Madison, Wisconsin, high school and college sweethearts. Carrie knew, deep down, that she wasn't going to become Mrs. Michael Mayer. But expectations and pressure from all sides--his family, her mother, her best friend Jamie, Mike's best friend Rooster--force Carrie to shut herself up in her room and sew outfits of her own design as if in a trance. Then one night she slips out of the only universe she's ever known. Many hours later she finds herself on the doorstep of a high school classmate living in Manhattan. Carrie's adventures in the city--quirky roommates and a new romance with an older, emotionally impenetrable man--confuse her in her quest both to forgive herself and to embark on a career in fashion design. Packer writes in a convincing voice and packs a lot into this novel; she infuses Carrie with enough humanity and smarts to choose her own version of "happily ever after." --Emily Russin

From Publishers Weekly

Packer's engrossing debut novel begins without ostentation. On Memorial Day, Carrie Bell and her fiance, Mike Mayer, drive out to Clausen's Pier for their annual ritual, a picnic with their friends, a trip they make the way a middle-aged couple might, in grudging silence. Before their resentments can be aired, Mike dives into too shallow water, suffering injuries that change their lives. If Mike survives, he will survive as a quadriplegic, and Carrie faces unexpected responsibilities. Ultimately, Carrie does what is both understandable and unthinkable. She leaves her hometown of Madison, Wis., and shows up on the doorstep of a friend in New York City. There she discovers a different world, different friends and a different self. The hovering question--what will Carrie do? Abandon Mike or return to him?--generates genuine suspense. Packer portrays her characters--both New Yorkers and Madisonites--deftly, and her scenes unfold with uncommon clarity. But if Packer has a keen eye, she has an even keener ear. The dialogue is usually witty; more important, it is always surprising, as if the characters were actually thinking--one of the reasons they become as familiar to the reader as childhood friends. The recipient of several awards, Packer is also the author of Mendocino and Other Stories. Clearly, she has honed her skills writing short fiction. What is unexpected is the assurance she brings to a larger canvas. In quiet but beautiful prose, Packer tells a complex and subtly constructed story of friendship, love and the hold the past has on the present. This is the sort of book one reads dying to know what happens to the characters, but loves for its wisdom: it sees the world with more clarity than you do.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (April 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375412824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375412820
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (460 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,470,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ann Packer is the acclaimed author of two collections of short fiction, Swim Back to Me and Mendocino and Other Stories, and two bestselling novels, Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen's Pier, which received the Kate Chopin Literary Award, among many other prizes and honors. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and in the O. Henry Prize Stories anthologies, and her novels have been published around the world. Her latest book, The Children's Crusade, will be published in April 2015. She lives in San Carlos, California.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Dive From Clausen's Pier was initially engaging. Being 23 isn't always the great ride that everyone thinks it is-some of us are stuck in between adult life and childhood, trying to reconcile responsibilities with real life. To that end, Packer has created a crippling (pardon the pun) dilemma: stay with someone that you no longer love out of obligation or follow your heart across the country. But the problem in this book lies less in the premise than in the execution of the main character, Carrie. She's a completely indifferent and I had trouble summoning up any type of sympathy for her and I had even more trouble figuring out why anyone cared about her. There was very little character development on her part, and for the most part you realize that much of the novel just didn't ring true at all and you're left thinking "what did I just read"?
2 Comments 55 of 62 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Packer starts her ambitious novel with a picture-perfect prologue: in spare, elegant prose she sets the scene and sends her protagonist's boyfriend to his quadriplegic fate. She takes the reader inside Carrie's head, and her strong writing keeps us engaged as Carrie and friends wait for Mike to emerge from his coma and as Carrie dithers over whether or not she'll look like a creep if she dumps Mike now. Packer has populated her story with a few interesting people--the therapist mom, the co-dependent friend, Mike's pal Rooster--so we forgive the lack of plot and the lack of character development.
Abruptly, the book switches directions. (Perhaps Packer decided that readers must be as bored with Madison as she and Carrie were.) Without warning to mom, friends, fiance, or the reader, Carrie jumps in her car and drives to New York. (Apparently young women never meet with foul play in Madison--Carrie's mom and friends don't seem concerned about her disappearance--they all somehow know that she skipped town because she didn't want to deal with her feelings about Mike.)
Packer's leisurely style becomes lethargic once Carrie hits the Big Apple, where she quickly acquires a free place to live, the stereotypical gay buddy, and an enigmatic boyfriend, Kilroy. Except he's not an interesting enigma; Carrie never figures out what makes him tick, and neither do we. What's more, it's hard to care, or to understand what she sees in him. Nor does New York feel "real." Packer, who excels in portraying Madison, fails to capture any of the essence of the big city.
The reader is still inside Carrie's head, but not a lot seems to be going on there. Much of her behavior is inexplicable. For example: she's planning to come to Madison for a visit (Rooster's wedding).
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12 Comments 175 of 208 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
The world of Carrie Bell, a 23-year-old Wisconsin native, changes forever when she witnesses Mike Mayer's dive from Clausen's Pier, a dive which results in his broken neck, quadriplegia, and long rehab. Mike has been her love for eight years, and though the intensity of her early relationship has palled, she has been unable to decide how, or even whether, to call off her engagement. Lovingly remaining at Mike's side during the crucial early months of his recuperation, Carrie wonders, "How much do we owe the people we love?" as she tries to distinguish between love and friendship and the limitations and obligations of each.

Packer's naturalistic style puts the minutiae of the daily lives of Carrie, Mike, their friends, and families under a microscope. We learn, for example, even the smallest details of Carrie's compulsive sewing (how to make a spaghetti strap, why she uses a Bernina sewing machine and Butterick pattern), the exacting therapy a spinal cord injury patient undergoes, some of the cherished traditions of Madison (Paddle and Portage Day at the lakes), and even some of Carrie's memories of friend Jamie from third grade. Packer is equally precise about what the characters are thinking, feeling, wondering, and concluding so that the reader need never search beneath the surface for hidden meanings or subtleties. ("We were alone together, and also alone within ourselves." "[Carrie went] from guilt to remorse to relief to exhilaration [as she drove to New York]." "You do what you do. Not without consequences for other people.
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2 Comments 41 of 47 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
The Dive From Clausen's Pier is one of the best books I read this year. It's powerful, realistic and heartwrenching without being melodramatic. I found the book to be a page-turner and couldn't put it down until I finished it.
The central plot of the novel revovles around Carrie, who is losing interest in her high school sweetheart to whom she is engaged. She is experiencing restlessness and boredom in the relationship, and with her life in the town, Madison, Wisconsin, where she grew up, and which she has never left. She wants to end her relationship with Mike, when he has a diving accident that renders him a paraplegic (this all happens in the first few pages of the novel, so I'm not giving anything away).
The rest of the novel deals with the aftermath of the accident, and how it impacts both Carrie's and Mike's life. Carrie is overwhelmed with guilt and grief. She desperately wants to leave Mike and Wisconsin for a new, exciting life in New York. But what kind of person would she be if she left Mike now when he needs her the most?
On the other hand, what kind of life would she have if she stayed? Should she be true to her self and begin a new life in New York? Should she pursue her dreams and desires of becoming a fashion designer, exploring a new lifestyle and pursuing her romantic feelings for someone else?
These are all decisions Carrie must face. The brilliance of the novel lies in the conflicting emotions that you, as the reader feel. You are at once rooting for Carrie to leave Mike and begin a new life, while at the same time, feeling the horror of such a a betrayal. Mike is a likable character. He loves Carrie, and has been a loyal and devoted boyfriend. While wanting Carrie to leave Mike, you also want her to stay.
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