Category Archives: Fiction – General

The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer

Synopsis, courtesy of

The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann PackerA riveting novel about loyalty and self-knowledge, and the conflict between who we want to be to others and who we must be for ourselves.

Carrie Bell has lived in all her life. She’s had the same best friend, the same good relationship with her mother, the same boyfriend, Mike, now her fiancé, for as long as anyone can remember. It’s with real surprise she finds that, at age twenty-three, her life has begun to feel suffocating. She longs for a change, an upheaval, for a chance to begin again.

That chance is granted to her, terribly, when Mike is injured in an accident. Now Carrie has to question everything she thought she knew about herself and the meaning of home. She must ask: How much do we owe the people we love? Is it a sign of strength or of weakness to walk away from someone in need?

The Dive from Clausen’s Pier reminds us how precarious our lives are and how quickly they can be divided into before and after, whether by random accident or by the force of our own desires. It begins with a disaster that could happen, out of the blue, in anybody’s life, and it forces us to ask how we would bear up in the face of tragedy and what we know, or think we know, about our deepest allegiances. Elegantly written and ferociously paced, emotionally nuanced and morally complex, The Dive from Clausen’s Pie marks the emergence of a prodigiously gifted new novelist.

The Dive from Clausen’s Pier tells the story of small-town girl Carrie’s struggle to break free from expectations, both hers and other people’s. She doesn’t have the courage to leave her boyfriend/fiance, Mike Mayer, so she instead acts cold and distant. Poor Mike also struggles but for a different reason: he wants to regain what he and Carrie have lost before they are forced to actually acknowledge its presence. This is what leads him to jump off Clausen’s Pier and break his neck, rendering him a quadriplegic. Carrie, naturally, is filled with guilt (but not necessarily tears as the novel uses countless pages to describe Carrie’s lack of tears) as she knows very well that it’s her emotional distance that caused Mike to jump off the pier. Tensions arise between Carrie & her friends and Carrie & Mike’s family, who are aware that she is pulling away from Mike, and had in fact been pulling away from him before the accident occurred. Unable to bear the pressure from her loved-ones and herself, Carrie decides to take off for New York without telling anyone. A spur-of-the-moment trip lasts months, and why shouldn’t it? Carrie is away from her family and from poor Mike for the first time in her young life. She embarks on an emotionally conflicting but sexually satisfying affair with Kilroy, who gives her excitement and the thrill of newness, but not much else. The freedom exhilarates her, but as the reader knows before Carrie does, it’s only a matter of time before regrets, guilt, and loyalty will her to come back to Madison.

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Brothers by Da Chen

Synopsis, courtesy of

Brothers by Da ChenAt the height of China’s Cultural Revolution a powerful general fathered two sons. Tan was born to the general’s wife and into a life of comfort and luxury. His half brother, Shento, was born to the general’s mistress, who threw herself off a cliff in the mountains of Balan only moments after delivering her child. Growing up, each remained ignorant of the other’s existence. In Beijing, Tan enjoyed the best schools, the finest clothes, and the prettiest girls. Shento was raised on the mountainside by an old healer and his wife until their deaths landed him in an orphanage, where he was always hungry, alone, and frightened. Though on divergent roads, each brother is driven by a passionate desire—one to glorify his father, the other to seek revenge against him.

Separated by distance and opportunity, Tan and Shento follow the paths that lie before them, while unknowingly falling in love with the same woman and moving toward the explosive moment when their fates finally merge.

Brothers, by bestselling memoirist Da Chen, is a sprawling, dynamic family saga, complete with assassinations, love affairs, narrowly missed opportunities, and the ineluctable fulfillment of destiny.

Brothers tells the old familiar story of rivalry and bitterness between brothers (or half-brothers, as it were). Tan and Shento are the sons of the General Ding Long, a member of the illustrious Long clan, which has political ties to Chairman Mao. Tan, being the legitimate son, is privy to a world of private schools, chauffeurs, and society parties; Shento, as the bAstard son, lives in the remote area of Balan with the old couple who adopted him. After a myriad of implausible events, Shento lands in an orphanage and Tan’s family goes into exile in the remote province the Longs came from.

Sumi Wo is the long-suffering, (stereotypically) saintly female protagonist who charms the pants off of both Shento and Tan. (What a coincidence, eh?) Shento gets dibs as he met Sumi first; they are both orphans with grand dreams of life beyond the orphanage. Tan meets sumi in his family’s ancestral village and is (of course) immediately enthralled by her beauty and intelligence.

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