Successful writer Clarissa Burden may live in Hope, FL but hope is not necessarily a word in her vocabulary when referring to her own life. She is experiencing writer’s block, her husband. Iggy, mostly ignores her (as he paints naked “models” in the backyard) unless he is acknowledging her presence with complete disdain, her new house is beautiful but possibly haunted, she has an obsessed fly that is stalking her, her only mode of transportation is full of six months of trash, and there is a very odd one-armed stranger (angel?) offering his tree-cutting services. Clarissa’s memories of her horrible, abusive childhood has left her with a lack of self-esteem and a “do I deserve more?” attitude.
How Clarissa Burden Learned to Flyby Connie May Fowler follows Clarissa’s day on the summer solstice and oh, how 24 hours can change everything. A rendezvous with a handsome author friend, a trip to the dump and almost drowning in a sunken grave full of quick mud are just some of the unsuspecting events that lead Clarissa on a journey to change her life and allow her to finally fly.
My initial reaction to this book after the first 40 pages or so was confusion and curiosity. I was not sure if I would actually like the main character of Clarissa as she played such a victim of past and present circumstances. I was hoping this would not be the tone of the entire story. It did not take long for me to become completely immersed in this story and to completely become engaged with Clarissa and each and every character – I hated some and laughed at and with others. There was so much more to Clarissa then a dud just letting life run her over. She has recurring daydreams of death scenes of her husband, listens to the ovarian shadow women and speaks with Deepak Chopra as he tells her to toughen up while wearing Liberace glasses.
Ms. Fowler’s storytelling skills are superb. I wanted to walk in the garden surrounding the house. I wanted to visit the general store and drive around the small swamp town meeting the eccentrics that seem to congregate in those out-of-the-way places. There were some fantastical moments and some meandering along trails that actually go nowhere but these add to the overall impact of the book and they all serve a purpose. The conclusion to the story would seem extraordinary if taken out of context but was perfect – satisfying!
If you cannot tell, I loved this book. In fact, I wish I could pretend I have not already had the pleasure of following Clarissa’s life-altering day so I can experience it again!
Please take a moment to visit Ms. Fowler’s website where you can participate in the Clarissa Burden I’ve Got a Secret Postcard Project, follow Ms. Fowler on Twitter, take a peek at the launch party for the book, or become a fan of the book on Facebook.
Booktumbling is a completely awesome site—full of easily accessible information on really great books—so it’s an honor for me be asked by Christine to answer a couple of questions.
Christine wants to know if I follow “a specific routine/time schedule” in my writing process and she wants to know about the Connie May Fowler Women with Wings Foundation that I operated for several years.
Writing is a tough taskmaster and, though I love it when I’m deep in what I call the “word mines,” getting there can be arduous. Fear tends to keep me away from my word processor. So, for me, keeping to a strict schedule is very helpful. My husband leaves the house very early for a long commute into Tallahassee. I rise around 6 or 7, let the dogs into the yard, feed them, put on a pot of tea, and turn on the computer. I normally read a few pages of a favored work (Mrs. Dalloway or Love in the Time of Cholera, for instance) to get me started and then I begin writing. I write for as long as I can. I am a morning writer because my brain is fresh. If I wait until later in the day, my synapses are firing with all the vigor of a jalopy in need of a tune-up. I also tend to revise the previous day’s work before I go forward with new writing. All of this helps me sink down into that deep muck from which novels arise: a place of unconscious creativity.
The Connie May Women with Wings Foundation helped women and children in need from 1997 until I sadly shuddered its doors in late 2003. We raised money for shelters nationwide, helped build new shelters, gave down payments for new buildings, established children’s libraries within the shelters, ran medical clinics in shelter, and lobbied for better laws. We donated every dime we made, which might not have been the brightest thing to do: all volunteer all the time can be daunting.
But then my life changed. I got divorced. The experience left scars that I still tend to this day. And I wasn’t writing. I had become a fulltime philanthropist. I loved the work—and remain deeply proud of our accomplishments—but I had to be honest: The time had come for me to be a writer again. So I made the terribly difficult decision to close the foundation. It had been my life’s work for nearly a decade. Moving on did not feel liberating, but as if I was walking away from my child.
I have worked hard to find a balance between social causes that interest me and being a writer. I continue to speak on issues such as literacy, family violence, and the environment. And I’m so happy that Christine, on the occasion of the publication of How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, asked me to do this guest post because it gives me the opportunity to stand on my latest soapbox and ask each of you to put books into the hands of children. I urge you to buy everything from picture books to young adult novels and donate them to your local domestic violence shelter. The children in shelter have witnessed unspeakable acts of terror committed by a parent they love. They bear guilt that they could not stop the violence and heal the battered parent. Notions of safety and happiness—notions many of us take for granted—are skewed in children who come from this background. We need to help them because, simply put, they deserve better. And it’s so easy. One of our daily mantras should be Give a kid a book. I am living proof that a child whose family is wracked with violence can find her way out of the darkness one word, one paragraph, one page, one book at a time.
I would like to thank the Hachette Book Group for providing a copy of this great book, without expectation, for my reading pleasure. I am participating in the Early Book Blog Tour. Please check out the other great blogs included in this tour.