Ann Packer received the Great Lakes Book Award for The Dive from Clausen's Pier, which was a national bestseller. She is also the author of Mendocino and Other Stories. She is a past recipient of a James Michener award and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and other magazines, as well as in Prize Stories 1992: The O. Henry Awards. She lives in northern California with her family.
Adult/High School-Carrie Bell, 23, is engaged to her boyfriend of eight and a half years and will likely live and die in the same town where she grew up and attended college. Lately, the prospect of such a life has left her feeling unsatisfied and yearning for something different. On Memorial Day, a picnic get-together with friends turns into a tragedy when Mike, her fianc, dives off Clausen's Pier. Partially paralyzed in both arms and with total paralysis below the waist, he is changed forever. Carrie is then left to decide whether to stay and become the supportive, loving wife everyone expects her to be or leave to pursue a life separate from him. Throughout the novel, she battles the central question of responsibility, what she owes Mike and what she owes herself. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. This story places readers in Carrie Bell's shoes, and will leave them pondering "what if" questions in their own lives. Teens are sure to connect with the protagonist's feelings of unrest and general indecision about her future. This fast-paced, character-driven story will keep them hooked through to the last page.-Julie Dasso, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Packer's engrossing debut novel begins without ostentation. On Memorial Day, Carrie Bell and her fianc, 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. (Apr.) Forecast: Packer has had a Cadillac career Yale, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the O. Henry Prize, work in the New Yorker and Ploughshares. All of this bodes well for sales, but stellar reviews and word of mouth will do most for this absorbing first novel. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Packer knows just how to make a story build: the novel reveals a sure sense of pace and pitch, a brilliant ear for character . . . a searching emotional generosity." -The New York Times Book Review
"Intricately detailed, deeply felt, compelling and utterly
surprising. . . . Wonderfully satisfying." -The Boston Globe
"Gracefully written and provocative. . . . An elegant book."
-The Washington Post Book World "[Packer's] characters seem
observed rather than invented, and capable of mistakes that the
author may never have intended. The result is genuine suspense."
-The New Yorker "A graceful writer . . . a quietly
provocative novel. . . . Packer has a wonderfully optimistic yet
realistic view of humanity." -Katharine Weber, Chicago
Tribune "One of those small miracles that reinforce our faith
in fiction. It does what the best novels so often do, making the
largest things visible by its perfect rendering of life on the
smaller scale. It is witty, tragic, and touching, and beguiling
from its first page." -Scott Turow "An intricately detailed, deeply
felt, compelling and ultimately surprising portrait of a young
woman facing an unbearable loss . . . surprisingly suspenseful. . .
. By the end of this wonderfully satisfying novel, it's clear why
Carrie is too complex a character to take the easy way out." -Jane
Ciabattari, San Francisco Chronicle "[The Dive from
Clausen's Pier] has an affinity with the work of Rosellen Brown
. . . and Anne Tyler. . . . Packer writes with a rare density of
detail and ideas, and it's just possible that the reader will be
wiser at the end of the book than she was at the beginning."
-Laurie Muchnick, Newsday "Packer's novel explores how life
itself can confront ordinary human beings with daunting moral
dilemmas." -USA Today "A fast, absorbing read. . . . Packer
. . . [has] written a first novel whose subject easily transcends
the page." -Entertainment Weekly "[Packer] plays the slower
rhythms of Madison against the Broadway boogie-woogie of Manhattan
to great effect." -The Economist "A winning debut novel."
-Vogue "Ambitious . . . both a colorful chronicle of life in
Wisconsin and New York City . . . and a serious, moving meditation
on the nature of love and of loyalty." -Glamour "Impressive
. . . Packer skillfully distills broad themes into small, personal
moments . . . a thoughtful and satisfying examination of duty and
personal integrity." -Time Out New York
"Remarkably assured, utterly winning. . . . Packer's characters scramble up from these pages as terrifically physical beings, so well does she describe them." -Miami Herald
"Absorbing . . . the suspense of the book's last pages is intense and moving." -Cleveland Plain Dealer "Rich with characters and restrained in its language, Packer's novel is, first and foremost, a great story. -Minneapolis Star Tribune "Fresh, contemporary, and fast-paced . . . a powerful and compelling read." -Baltimore Sun
"Packer knows just where she wants to take us . . . [and] the journey is worth taking." -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Multilayered...absolutely credible and quite surprising." -Seattle Times
"A book I couldn't let go for days after finishing. . . . This book will make you think, so read it and pass it on to a friend." -Winston-Salem Journal