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Posts Tagged ‘Reading Between the Vines’

Oohhh… Forgive me. I’m feeling giddy, word-drunk, high on the sights and sounds and smells of Connie May Fowler’s intoxicating new novel, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly.

Thickets of roses. Heat-blanched sky.  A marble tumbling on a heart pine floor.  Faint fiddle music. Ghosts and graveyard dirt.  A woman standing on the worn planks of an old front porch.  A buzzing fly drawn to the faint scent of ripe apples.

June 21, 2006, and the north Florida hamlet of Hope steams under the midsummer sun. “But this day was not normal. It was the solstice, and Clarissa was becoming undone, and though she was unaware of the fact, there were spirits afoot.’’

Thirtysomething Clarissa, a successful novelist, is determined to love this day, despite the writer’s block that has dogged her for months, the surly behavior of her indifferent husband of seven years, and the self-doubts that have plagued her since her trailer-park childhood. Even as she envisions gory spousal death scenarios and attacks mundane chores with a vengeance, her imagination is stirring with the possibilities of change. But it won’t be easy; she’s been a wimp too long.

Fowler, perhaps best-known for the award-winning Before Women Had Wings, reaches new heights with this tale of one woman’s journey of self-discovery. Heard it all before? Hardly. Elements of magical realism – a disgraced angel, a chorus of “ovarian shadow voices,’’ the aforementioned ghosts, a carnival of dwarfs, the Poor Spot Cemetery – give the story whimsy. A subplot of the dark history of Clarissa’s house offers tragedy, a meeting with a male writer lends a little romance, and Clarissa’s eventual resolve to risk life again finally brings redemption.  The ending, in which Fowler knots the wandering storylines under a stormy sky, provides the necessary “oomph’’ that Clarissa likes in her literary heroes.

Riding on the back of a Harley midway through the book, “charging through time and space,’’ leads Clarissa to “venture that angels prefer flight to heaven.’’ No wonder she longs to fly. Hang on for a wild ride.

Datebook: Connie May Fowler joins authors Gerald Posner and Bob Morris as guest speakers for “Reading between the Wines,” the annual benefit for the Adult Literacy League, at 6 p.m. April 9 at the Orlando Marriott Downtown. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased online at www.adultliteracyleague.org. More info at 407-422-1540.

Open Book: How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly will be published April 2 by Grand Central Publishing, which sent me an advance copy of the book. Connie May Fowler is a friend from her days teaching at Rollins College in Winter Park.

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