Friday, May 31, 2019

The Dive from Clausen's Pier

There was a time about half way through this book that I became so angry at the behavior of a character. And I thought, temporarily, that the author was condoning the activity.  Even though I was 160 or so pages invested, I did not want to read any more of it.

I'm glad I continued.  The author was not, I believe, condoning the activity--she was describing it. And describing it well. I am still not certain if there was some degree of acceptance mixed in with the description.

One of my favorite lines from a novel is from Ironweed.  A character is describing a reprehensible activity of another.  The listener says, "He was just doing what he had to do."  The character responds dismissively and says "That's what everyone does."

Everyone does what they have to do. But some people do cruel inconsiderate things in the name of doing what they have to do. And others, do not do cruel things. What they have to do, the responsible ones, is behave within the confines of a conscience that compels one to be considerate of others-even when it is painful to be so considerate.

The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer is a very good book. It is disturbing at times but it is well written, and can be read from the perspective of a story as well as something beyond a story.

Not giving away much below since it happens right in the beginning, but if you want to know nothing, then skip the next paragraph.

Carrie is 23 and engaged to Mike who she met when she was 14.  Things are cooling from Carrie's perspective, but they--with their friends--embark on their annual Memorial Day weekend picnic. Mike dives from Clausen's Pier and there is an accident.  Now what.  Even though things were cooling off, there is a deep love and history that they share.   There are several important and well described (but certainly not all well liked) characters. A best friend of Mike, Mike's mother, Carrie's mother, Carrie's best friend, Simon a high school acquaintance who becomes a friend, Kilroy, Lane.

The issue for me in events or novels like this is simple: one does not have the right to behave reprehensibly because the world has given them a bad deal, or there are people in the world who are irresponsible.  You'll have to read the book, but I am not at all suggesting that Carrie is morally and in any way obligated to stay with Mike. I am suggesting that no matter what bad things come your way, you are not entitled to hurl them back. You are entitled to dodge the foul matter, but not at the expense of someone else.  Somebody dumps garbage on your lawn.  Fine with me if you dump the garbage back at the perpetrator. Not fine with me if you dump it on your neighbor's lawn or if you feel the insult of having garbage thrown on your property gives you permission to treat people who did you no harm as if they are, collectively, the garbage dumpers.

I think the author here does such an excellent job of drawing the characters and scenes as they would have likely occurred. I cannot stand people like Kilroy, but they are out there.  I think the way she describes them is just the way Jamie, Rooster, and Mrs. Mayer would have behaved. There are some beautifully written steamy scenes as well. I wondered at times if they were gratuitous, but I did not mind reading them. And if she left them out, she might have left out a key part that explains the fuel of a relationship.

The metaphors and tale beyond the story are special as well. The house in New York where everyone is doing something that they are doing temporarily before they do something else.  Do we all live there? And more than anything, Carrie's sewing skill: the ability to mend and alter and create.  And the sense the reader gets that it is this, that will be her calling.

This book will stay with me for a while. Highly recommended.

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