“On June 21, 2006, at seven a.m. in a malarial crossroads named Hope, Florida, the thermometer old Mrs. Hickok had nailed to the Welcome To Hope sign fifteen years prior read ninety-two degrees. It would get a lot hotter that day, and there was plenty of time for it to do so, this being the summer solstice.”
So begins How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly by Connie May Fowler (Grand Central Publishing) and you realize that this will be no ordinary journey. Fowler has taken the summer solstice, nature, the paranormal, and a lot of other surprises, dropped them into the center of Clarissa Burden’s search for peace of mind, an answer to her bout of writer block, and her disintegrating marriage and churned them all into a rhythmical novel that will have the reader riveted at each and every turn.
Clarissa takes on the challenges and revelations of this remarkable day, which will change her life forever, guided by her “ovarian shadow women” who speak in enchanting, inspiring and sometimes amusing voices. Among the other characters are a hapless, precocious fallen angel named Larry Dibble, an enamored housefly, snakes, spiders, a dwarf carnival and just about anything else you can think of all coexisting with Clarissa. Fowler’s omniscient narrative reminds us that there are worlds, both macro and microscopic, affecting our lives every day.
Although it takes a chapter or two to fall into the rhythm of this book, once the reader does, Clarissa’s world opens up to us in an extraordinary way. Fowler brings to light not only the unspeakable beauty but also the devastating and sometimes cruel world in which we live. Clarissa both entertains and chills us with her spousal death sequences. We learn about the ghost women and children of Poor Spot Cemetery. We also learn the history and why the ghost family haunts her home. Fowler takes us on a bewildering and curious roller coaster ride until finally, the reader understands not only Clarissa’s present marital frustrations but also the lingering remnants from her childhood.
Amy Tan said of Connie May Fowler: “If writing is a gift, then Connie May Fowler must have been bestowed with the gift of ten Muses.” These muses not only inspired How Clarissa Learned to Fly but make several personal appearances as well. Fowler introduces us to a world of beauty, danger, and unspeakable acts of human cruelty. Then, she shows us the strength a woman can find to survive it, all waiting silently, just below the surface of her life.
Clarissa Burden will capture your heart. You will weep with her, be angry with her and cheer her on along with the voices of her “ovarian shadow women” as she faces the fears both within and outside of herself. Settle in to read this book with a large cup of tea, warm fuzzy slippers, a comfy throw and a seat belt because once you open the pages of this book you won’t want to put it down until the ride is over.