THE DIVE FROM CLAUSEN'S PIER opens with an immediate tragedy to draw readers in to the story. Mike, showing off for his somewhat disgruntled fiancée Carrie, dives into some water and seriously injures himself. He is comatose for a period of time and, when he awakens, it is discovered that he is paralyzed. Though first impressions may suggest that the novel will focus on Mike and his recovery, in reality the central focus is on Carrie and her arrival to self-discovery.
This tragedy begins Carrie's journey, literally and figuratively speaking. Carrie is feeling pressured by expectations; the expectations are those of Mike, his family, his friends and, most importantly, Carrie herself. Carrie feels she is expected to be there for Mike during his recovery, whether she wants to be or not. Mike and Carrie were having problems in their relationship before the accident. However, Carrie now feels obligated to stay with Mike throughout his recovery, given the circumstances. She almost begins to lose herself and her identity to Mike and the pressures of his recovery. Carrie ends up spending most of her time at the hospital instead of at her job. She feels guilty about doing anything other than sitting by Mike's bedside and even thinks she should give up her own life because of Mike's injury. She is identified at the hospital as Mike's fiancée, not as her own person.
Eventually the pressure becomes too much for Carrie, and she takes off to New York City to stay with a friend from school. This allows her time away from her obligations caused by Mike's injury. While there, she runs into Kilroy, a man who she met briefly at a co-worker's house. Kilroy intrigues Carrie and she finds herself drawn to him, almost in spite of herself. Carrie and Kilroy begin a love affair, though it seems to follow Kilroy's terms and conditions. Carrie also begins taking fashion design classes while in the city. This opens up a new part of Carrie that has not yet been tapped into, helping her to regain her own identity.
Gradually, Carrie begins to head home. Readers will find themselves swept up in Carrie's displacement when she finally returns. Her best friend is very angry with her and isn't speaking to her. Her relationship with Mike is unclear. His family and friends seem to almost resent the fact that she is back. Slowly, Carrie begins to find some sort of peace within herself. She starts making decisions that are right for her. She repairs her relationship with her best friend and reaches some sort of understanding with Mike.
Carrie is a character who readers will become involved with on an emotional level. Readers will respond to her feelings and admire the strength that she finds at the end of the book. This novel has many interesting elements to it: a love story (or two, if you count Carrie and Kilroy), an interesting setting (New York City), and a plot that has many twists and turns to keep readers engaged. Despite its tragic beginning, this novel ends on a positive note.
Reviewed by Melissa A. Martin on January 21, 2011
The Dive From Clausen's Pier