Tuesday, September 18, 2007

before death parts us

Ann Packer is all over the New York Times these days for her new novel, Songs Without Words. But in reading about the new book I came across a review of her first novel The Dive from Clausen's Pier and I knew that it had to be next on my reading list.

The Dive asks one ambitious question, "How much do we owe the people we love?" One perfect summer afternoon Carrie Bell's fiance dives from Clausen's pier and breaks his neck. She knows that if they were married there would be no question, she would stand with him (in a manner of speaking). But they have not taken their vows yet and much to her surprise Carrie finds that there is a question. Will she stay or will she go? Which is the crueler choice -- to walk away from this man, a new quadriplegic or to stay and get married to someone she has long suspected she no longer loves?

Packer asks no easy questions and blissfully offers no easy answers either. Carrie finds herself torn. Her confidence in who she thought she was lies as broken and ruined as Mike's body. She finds that there is no aid to help maneuver a broken soul. Some things are so quickly stripped away and others, she finds, cannot be reduced or lessened. They simply are. As one character notes, "you cannot take away the chair-ness of it." It is what it is.

Carrie is left to navigate a new world wondering, "whether there is a single me I could be in the presence of them both?" Are we who we think we are? Are what we we do, or what we did? In times of crisis can we become someone new or do we simply reveal who we always were?

Here at the end of the novel I'm still not sure if Carrie made the right choice. Would I have acted differently? I don't know. But this is a story masterfully told. Brilliantly paced and skillfully shaded I am left to ponder, satisfied but not yet settled.

1 comment:

ramblin'andie said...

Hmn. I read a magazine article recently about a real life couple. She stayed with him despite knowing that she hadn't loved him in a long time. I think it took about a year for her to realize she was staying for the wrong motives.

When she broke it off she faced a LOT of criticism but years later he came and told her it was the best thing she could have done for him since he finally had to learn to 'stand' on his own. It was an interesting article, I wish I still had it to give to you.