Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly by Connie May Fowler

I stumbled across Connie May Fowler's works many years ago and have been enjoying her unusual writing ever since. With her trademarked meandering writing style, imitating and reflecting the heat shimmering over her fictional creation of Hope, Florida, Fowler has created the story of a woman beaten down by life, held hostage to her loveless marriage and her own inadequacies by self-esteem lower than a boa constrictor's belly who will finally rise up and learn to fly on her own.

Clarissa is a writer with two wildly successful books under her belt. She and her husband, Iggy, moved to Hope six months prior to the midsummer day (the summer solstice) during which all events of the story take place. As the day heats and grows, Clarissa watches as Iggy cavorts with his nude models (he's an artist or sorts) and is herself followed by a determined ghost who needs Clarissa to tell her terrible story and that of her husband and son as well. It is through the minor interventions of the ghost Olga and the imaginary voices in Clarissa's own head that she grows in strength as the day does, determining that her husband won't bully her anymore, that her opinion of things is valid, and that she has more worth than she's ever given herself for having.

The story seems to almost swirl through the pages, defying conventional narrative techniques. With ghosts unimagined and unacknowledged by Clarissa, a fly drunk on the appealing smell of the main character, a boy with a pet rattler, and a dwarf circus, this book is chock full of the unconventional and the unusual. And despite the craziness, Fowler manages to make this story of a woman's self-realization and strength completely normal and believable. Clarissa takes baby steps throughout her day and while her weaknesses make the reader groan, these small lapses into who she has been for all of her previous life make her newly fledged character all the more realistic. There are twists aplenty contained within and horrors too. The final culmination is a bit rushed but it nicely reinforces Clarissa as a woman with whom to be reckoned, a fighter. Once I picked this one up, I didn't put it down until I was finished, mesmerized as I was by the place, the characters, and the story itself and rooting for Clarissa to break free, to fly.

Thanks to Miriam at Hachette for sending me a copy of the book to review.


  1. This looks interesting; it's going on my tbr list.

  2. Kristen,
    Thank you so much for this thoughtful and wonderful review! Thanks also for your fabulous blog. I love it! And for any book clubs out there, I'm happy to do book chats via Skype!
    Thanks again, Kristen, and happy reading!

  3. I just got this one from LibraryThing, and it sounds great. Glad to see you enjoyed it.

    Diary of an Eccentric


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