Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly - Connie May Fowler


I doubt there is a living, breathing follower of my blog out there that doesn't know I am a huge fan of Connie May Fowler. In 2009, I consumed everything she had published, and delighted in watching her evolve as a writer...from some of the darker works of her earlier days (Sugar Cage, Before Women Had Wings), to her cathartic memoir When Katie Wakes, to the lighter, ethereal novels of Remembering Blue and The Problem with Murmur Lee.

You will understand then, why I was indescribably excited when Connie contacted me late in 2009 and offered me the opportunity to review her upcoming book, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly. The only downside in the whole scenario was that I would have to sit on it for three months, squirming to let the cat out of the bag! This book isn't just brilliant, it is a wild ride a mile above the ground that takes us flying right along beside Clarissa. It is also obvious to me that Connie is having one heck of a lot of fun.

Clarissa Burden is a woman on the edge. She is an acclaimed author, but has a bad case of writer's block. She is married to a detestable, chauvinistic artist that shamelessly draws (and sleeps with) nude models. In fact, Clarissa has frequent fantasies of the various ways she might kill the bastard. Pulled down by insecurities instilled in her childhood, she assumes all bad things in life are her fault. But deep down in Clarissa, there is a slow burn that is about to erupt.

On the summer solstice of 2006 (coincidentally my 40th birthday - how cool is that?) we hang with Clarissa, and watch her journey of self-discovery and awakening. She doesn't travel down what we would consider the expected, traditional path however. She almost haplessly wanders around her rural, northern Florida town, receiving subtle inspiration from a housefly, her internal voices (called the ovarian shadow women, assuming the personalities of Bea Arthur, Christiane Amanpour, the Wicked Witch of the West and Ethel Merman), a soft-hearted, one-eyed, slightly dude-ish fisherman, a handsome writing colleague, a used car salesman, a fallen angel, an abandoned cemetery full of forgotten women's souls, and the spirits of a murdered family who once lived in Clarissa's house.

Ha! Did you do a double take? I did too. One might assume this is your typical "woman busting out of her chains and becoming empowered" kind of yarn, but it's not. She does an uncanny job of taking you to a place where Everywoman has been. You know, down in the muck that threatens never to let go, where you question yourself and are scared to let yourself be beautiful. But at the same time, Connie takes it to a spiritual, other-worldly place, introducing a very unexpected and precious supernatural element.

As if I thought Connie May Fowler couldn't get any better, or move me any more than she already has! She doesn't just fly, she soars, and she took me with her.

5 out of 5 stars




28 comments:

Nymeth said...

I actually didn't know! :P But then again I only discovered your blog around BBAW in September, and maybe you read her earlier in the year. Anyway, this sounds like a stunning book, and Fowler sounds like an author I really ought to check out.

Jessica said...

I really should check this author out as well, sound like an interesting book.

caite said...

well, I do remember some discussion of Murmur Lee...

this book sounds fantastic. darn, guess I will have to check it out.

Susan said...

So very cool that you, and you alone, had exclusive blog rights to reveiew her book first!!! May I have your autograph, ma'am?

The book sounds wonderful and exciting and not run-of-the-mill, thank goodness! But then, Connie May has never been that!

Can't wait to get hold of a copy!

Molly said...

ok - shame on me! I have not read a single book by this author and I am obviously missing out. Which book would you recommend I read first?

JoAnn said...

I'm with Molly - MUST read this author, but not sure where to start...

Serena said...

Wow, you had to sit on this for three months..that must have been tough...sounds like another good one from this author!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I didn't know either! Where have I been? In any event, if you give it 5 out of 5, 99% of the time I know I'll love it too! :--)

bermudaonion said...

I'm surprised you didn't burst having to wait so long to shout your love of this one! I can't wait to read it.

Anna said...

I knew how much you loved her books, so when I saw this one on the LibraryThing Early Reviewers list, I quickly clicked on request. I'm excited that I'll be reading it soon so I can find out what all the fuss is about. ;)

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Julie P. said...

I'm with you -- love her! Can't wait to read this one.

Missy B. said...

I can't wait to read this....wonderful review, Sandy! I own When Katie Wakes...it is one of my favorites.

The Bumbles said...

Just don't go getting all Annie Wilkes on us now!

I have made note of your prior recommendations of her writing and will be sure to let you know what I think when I get to them.

If I ever write something, I would want you to review it. You really know how to get people excited about reading something :0)

heidenkind said...

I hadn't heard about this fangirl obsession, either. You should create a badge to put on your blog!

Zibilee said...

I haven't read anything by Connie May Fowler, but your review makes me want to go out and pick this up right now! It does sound very unconventional, but also intensely interesting and guaranteed to make me think. I loved this review! Your enthusiasm for this book and the author is contagious! Great review!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I'm trying to remember which Fowler book I've read (I'm pretty sure I've read one....my poor brain needs caffeine)....but yay for you to find a book you clearly loved so much! Moments like that make reading 50 "meh" books to get to the great one totally worth it.

Darlene said...

I'm glad she keeps living up to your expectations Sandy! This book really does sound intriguing though. Another for the wishlist.

Kay said...

I haven't read this author for a long time - maybe When Women Had Wings? This book sound very interesting. I'll put it on the wishlist. Aren't you happy that you can now share your joy?? :-)

Melody said...

Yes, I'm aware you're a huge fan of Connie May Fowler! :)

I haven't read any of her books yet, but I think I have to after hearing your raves about them!!

ds said...

I've been dying to read your review of this--and it's wonderful. Read Remembering Blue ages & ages ago. Very different stuff from this one. Love the idea of the "ovarian shadow women", never mind the combination, lol. Sounds like Ms. Fowler had as much fun writing this as you did reading it. Will have to check this out. Thanks, Sandy!

Andreea said...

Wow, great review Sandy! This book does sound very engaging. I'm off to check out this author!

Iliana said...

How I haven't managed to read one of Connie's books yet after your reviews is beyond me! :)

This sounds fantastic and I love the bit about the ovarian shadow women. Ha.

Kathleen said...

You have never steered me wrong yet Sandy so this one is definitely going on my list!

Bonnie said...

I just started reading your blog so I didn't know you were such a fan of Connie's work. I am really excited to read this after your enthusiastic review. I have a copy and I'll be starting it shortly as I'm part of the Hachette blog tour.

Literary Feline said...

Terrific review, Sandy! I feel like I need to go out and buy all of Connie May Fowler's books right now. :-) This one really sounds good.

Do you recommend I start with her earlier works and work my way forward or is it okay to start anywhere?

Jenners said...

You're not going to try and hobble Ms. Fowler are you? (a reference to "Misery" and being a #1 Fan ... in case you didn't get it .. but I suspect you did).

Glad you could finally share your love and enthusiasm for the book!!

Alice Teh said...

All right. This one HAS to go into my wish list. I like the character Clarissa already. Haven't heard of this author but now I have you to thank for. This book sounds wonderful!

Melissa M said...

I'm glad this one was ever better than your expectations!