I love that my mother passes on her novels to me — most of the books she’s read usually becomes one of my favorites, or I find books to read that are similar (which are mainly about fictional stories with real life and death experiences). Ann Packer’s The Dive From Clausen’s Pier is definitely one of those books that will take up a space in my heart, since I could relate with some of the feelings. It made me realize that you eventually have to accept who you are, and sometimes an escape can help discover those findings, as well as realizing who you really owe your love to. Carrie Bell, the 23 year-old fashion junkie from Madison, Wisconsin discovers how and whom she needs to love, as well as her own identity, throughout her journey.
Carrie and her 23 year-old boyfriend Mike Mayer have been together for eight years, but things seem rocky to begin with when the story starts. On Memorial Day, Carrie and Mike meet up with their friends at Clausen’s Reservoir: Rooster, Mike’s best friend; Jamie, Carrie’s best friend; Christine and her boyfriend Bill, along with another friend named Stu. Everyone here is enjoying life post-college, and Carrie still remains working at Wisconsin University’s library.
Carrie, however, is in a mood; she’s distant from the group, especially with Mike. Jamie notices that her best friend isn’t acting like herself, but Carrie claims that she’s fine. To encourage some fun, Rooster and Stu dare Mike to dive. Mike playfully questions his friends whether he should do it or not, and all cheer him on to do so. But little did Mike and Carrie’s friend knew that the water levels were still a bit low for swimming season — Mike dives, and then ends up in Intensive Care with a broken neck and paralyzed from the arms down, in a coma.
Carrie tries to retrace her love that she once had for Mike, but it becomes difficult: she doesn’t cry until about four weeks later, when Mike finally wakes up. At this point, Mike is diagnosed as quadriplegic and forever spends his life in a wheelchair. Carrie finds it difficult to visit Mike in rehab more and more as the weeks go by; her mother, Mrs. Bell, Rooster and Jamie notice that her interest in Mike is suddenly falling, regardless of his condition.
During a dinner with one of Carrie’s co-workers named Viktor, she meets his alluring friend whom is visiting named Kilroy, a native from New York City. Kilroy shows his interest in Carrie, but he had already sensed that she’s involved in a serious relationship. Although Kilroy tries to impress Carrie with his pool skills, it would not be the last night they see each other ever again.
Carrie happens to reconnect with a high school classmate named Simon, who’s also visiting from New York City. Carrie notices something different about Simon, and he tells her he’s openly gay and studying art and theatre at The Big Apple. Carrie suddenly feels comforted by Simon, and opens up to him about her pressuring feelings about Mike; she doesn’t think she’s in love with him anymore, but she can’t manage to take off the engagement ring he gave her.
In order to escape the confusion and guilt, Carrie travels to New York City to live with Simon, without saying goodbye to anyone in Madison. Two days before Carrie’s adventure, she spots Jamie’s teen sister, Lynn, waiting for a man outside a sketchy area of town, whom she met while waitressing at a restaurant she works at. Wearing a short skirt with teased hair and heavy eyeliner, Lynn begs Carrie not to say a word about it to Jamie. Carrie keeps her promise, but later in the story the reader will find out that keeping that promise was never worth it…
Carrie then has the desire to find Kilroy; she finds him at a bar called McClanahan’s that he constantly talked about. The two get to know each other more, and end up having a night of romance back at Kilroy’s apartment. The next morning, Kilroy finally tells Carrie is age: FORTY. But that never scared Carrie away; it only it brought her closer to him and she eventually forgot about her friends and family back in Madison, even though Kilroy keeps many secrets from her. It takes a few discoveries to find the answers to Kilroy’s secrets, and it takes one phone call from a friend, a cry for help, to challenge Carrie on what she intends to do next – who really deserves her love?
I would love to summarize the whole book for you if I could, but that would be unfair since this is a review. In 42 chapters, Packer bulks many themes, scenes and conflicts in an entertaining and descriptive manner. It’s a juicy book, and because there’s so many characters involved, I wondered if a reader of this novel attempted to write fan fictional stories of them, like what their side of the story is while Carrie was gone.
I found this novel to be overwhelmingly peaceful, fucked up, and somber. There were times I wish I could’ve just teleported my fist through the pages to punch Carrie in the face. Carrie isn’t known to be a very likable character because of the grief she causes among friends, families, lovers and herself. She’s selfish and in her twenties and fucking confused. She stopped loving Mike sometime way before the accident, and him becoming paralyzed might’ve been her cue. However, I can’t exactly hate her either; like Rooster and Jamie say to her, “I’m mad at you, but I understand how you feel”.
I think in your twenties it’s incredibly hard to be in love for such a long period of time – you’re discovering who you are and what you want still, and how to love. I only know this because I’m still experiencing it with numerous situations.
It’s a great read — actually, I found it quite comforting because I think anybody could relate to a few of the themes in the novel (although you’ll never admit it).
The Dive From Clausen’s Pier is published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, April 16, 2002
ISBN 0375412824 (hardcover with jacket)
$24 when first published, about $13 on Amazon.com as of 2013.
LIFETIME MOVIE COMPARISON (iTunes and Amazon, $3.99 to buy – rent n/a)
***SPOILERS!*** Read at your own risk (if you haven’t read the book).
I guess the old saying is that movies based on books never follow the actual book, and I was pretty hurt to have my eyes open to that by this Lifetime movie.
To start on positive notes, this movie really brought the characters alive. Michelle Trachtenburg (Harriet the Spy) plays an awesome Carrie, and Will Estes (The Dark Night Rises) is a great role for Mike. The acting was well for an hour and a half movie, but the directors REALLY twisted up the plot — I mean, REALLY fucked with it. They try to make Carrie appear to be less extreme with her decisions, and Kilroy as a sweeter guy. They pulled it off well, but because I liked this book so much, I took note of the obvious – I found of these changes either really good or stupid. But then again, how could you fit so many details in an hour from 42 chapters?!:
- Julie Mayer, Mike’s little sister doesn’t exist. John Junior, Mike’s youngest sibling, only has one or two cameo shots. Miss Wolf only had a single cameo shot as well. Her death and significance were not present in the film.
- Other missing characters: Lynn, Mixie, Alice, Bill, Harvey, Dave King, Ania, Maura and Jeff.
- She’s Carrie Beal, not Carrie Bell.
- Carrie cries after the accident – in the book, she doesn’t cry until Mike wakes from his coma.
- After Mike’s accident, he rudely asks Nurse Joan to change the channel. In the book, that’s his rehab roommate Jeff’s job.
- Kilroy tells Carrie that he’s 35 — in the book, he tells her he’s 40.
- Dillion, Simon’s love interest, is African American. In the book, he’s described as snotty and blonde (nothing is wrong with this, however. After watching the movie, I realized the lack of diversity in Packer’s novel – I like how Dillion’s black instead).
- Nurse Joan is described tall and blonde as well. In the movie, she’s played by Raquel Duffy.
- When Kilroy tells Carrie that she’s “barking up the wrong tree”, he lets her walk out. In the book: before she walks out, he asks her to go to dinner with him.
- Since there’s no Lynn in the movie, Rooster calls Carrie in the beginning of December updating her that Jamie’s mother is in rehab again (this part comes MUCH later in the book). Although he notifies that he’s marrying Joan, he doesn’t state when the wedding will be — he just asks Carrie to come home for Christmas, which she does not.
- She cancels her flight the day before the holidays after a steamy, sexy night with Kilroy – in the book, Kilroy convinces Carrie to stay to take her to a park in NYC.
- Instead of giving her a picture he took from France, Kilroy gives Carrie a sketchbook for Christmas as a diary to keep her fashion ideas and collections.
- Kilroy and Carrie don’t share that mysterious moment on top of the Empire State building (that means Maura never existed, either).
- Kilroy never receives a letter from his parents, it’s a single phone call instead. During Carrie’s celebration with Kilroy, Simon and Lane of starting fashion school, Kilroy pulls Carrie to the side and tells her he must visit his parents. Carrie convinces him to invite her. IN THE BOOK. . . Kilroy receives a letter from his parents about the mysterious date and Carrie sneaks into his coat pocket to read it (while he’s at work). She still convinces him to take her, but the day before they go, they go on a trip outside of New York for the night.
- Rooster’s wedding takes place in the spring season. After Carrie’s argument with Kilroy, she leaves to go to the wedding. She never gets a call from Jamie, although Jamie shows that she is angry at her. IN THE BOOK. . . Rooster invited Carrie to the wedding three days before Christmas and she bailed. Carrie only returned to Madison to revive the friendship with Jamie.
- Jamie forgives Carrie right away. IN THE BOOK, Jamie is much harder and colder – it takes days for Carrie to get Jamie to talk to her again.
- Stu is still around. IN THE BOOK, Rooster tells Carrie that Stu was embarrassed by Mike because he’s handicapped.
- Rooster’s wedding takes place at the Mayers’ home. IN THE BOOK. . . lol, this never happened. I think they needed to skip the first two weeks of Carrie’s return and they smashed it into one…whole…event. Haha.
- Kilroy flies to Madison to win back Carrie. IN THE BOOK, Kilroy keeps in contact with Carrie until she loses interest in calling him. Weeks later, her fancy Bernina sewing machine is mailed to her from Kilroy…that’s when she finally calls him back and discovers more about his life.
- Kilroy admits to Carrie that his frustration is built upon the death of his brother, Thomas Michael Fraser. He tells Carrie that he died in an accident. OHHH BUT WAIT A MINUTE…IN THE BOOK, Kilroy and Carrie are discussing this over the phone. Kilroy’s brother is just named “Mike” and his cause of death was leukemia (why did they have the need to screw the climax up?)
- Kilroy begs Carrie to start over and to come back with him to NYC. Carrie peacefully, with a kiss, breaks up with him and tells him she’s staying in Madison. IN THE BOOK, Kilroy tells Carrie how much she’s destroyed him by not returning and ends the relationship over the phone.
My final words: the movie is fun to watch, but the book is better.