Tuesday, April 6, 2010
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