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Spilling Clarenceby Anne Ursu
Synopses & Reviews
What if you could suddenly remember everything that ever happened to you, every joy and every sorrow that you had ever endured? Would it be a blessing — or a curse?
This is the fate of the residents of the town of Clarence, who fall under the spell of a strange and powerful drug that unlocks their memories. The past comes flooding back without the buffer of time, and the townspeople, young and old, find themselves awash in their own reminiscences — of love and death, of war and childhood, of happiness they've experienced, and sins they've committed.
This tender, witty first novel accompanies the people of Clarence on their journey into the past: There is psychology professor and single father Bennie, who has devoted his life to his eight-year-old daughter, Sophie; his mother, Madeline, hwo is being courted by a kind of widower with his own secrets; and Susannah, who moved to Clarence for love but becomes frozen with longing for the family she left behind. Even as the weight of the past threatens to overwhelm them, what also emerges are memories of startling joy, potent recollections of loved ones lost and now found again.
Beautifully rendered with a light comic touch, this bittersweet novel is about more than the sum of its beguiling parts. Spilling Clarence explores our relationship with our histories, the seductive pull of regret, the unreliability of meomry, and the bliss of forgetting. A univers people by exquisitely drawn characters, Spilling Clarence is a moving introduction to the impressive talents of an exciting new writer.
"Anne Ursu's writing is effervescent. She manages to fill her sentences with so much light and life that every page in Spilling Clarence is a dazzling event." Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistant
"Oh, what a book! Haunting, heartbreaking and, at turns, very, very funny, Ursu's Spilling Clarence is about regret, loss, love and, most particularly, the power of our memories — the ones we desperately cling to, and the ones we'd give our very soulds to be able to forget. People with a cast of characters as indelible as a waking dream, and written in pitch-perfect prose, Spilling Clarence is a profoundly original exploration of what it means to be human." Caroline Leavitt, author of Coming Back to Me
"What a pleasure it is to discover not just a splendidly inventive, witty and highly intelligent novel, which Spilling Clarence certainly is, but also a bright new writer, Anne Ursu, whose debut makes me happy to anticipate our future together — anything she writes, I'll read." Katharine Weber, author of Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear and The Music Lesson
"[T]he paint-by-numbers plot development soon becomes labored, and the relentlessly perky prose style calls attention to itself with too arch irony." Publishers Weekly
"Ursu is a writer who cares deeply about her characters....Lots of pop-culture references to life in middle America lend a comic touch. Recommended." Library Journal
"With compelling, scarred characters and a cleverly rendered setting, Ursu's debut is both thought-provoking and enjoyable." Booklist
"Engaging...intriguing...charming." USA Today
"Warm, playful, and magical...no scalpel can touch the truths Ursu locates." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Evoking the work of Tyler and Hoffman, this whimsical, bittersweet debut suggests that the stories of our lives save us." U.S. Weekly
After a smokey fire at a pharmaceutical factory, the panic-stricken townspeople of Clarence fall under the spell of a strange and powerful drug that unlocks their memories — both good and bad — of the citizens of Clarence. Beautifully rendered with a light comic touch, this bittersweet first novel — now in paperback — introduces the original talents of an exciting new writer.
What if you could suddenly remember everything that ever happened in your life? Would it be a blessing — or a curse? The answer is found in Spilling Clarence, a satisfying, witty, romantic, and tender novel. In the fictional town of Clarence, Minnesota, a breakroom microwave sparks a smokey fire at the pharmaceutical factory and triggers a massive chemical spill. Panic-stricken and paralyzed, the townspeople wait until the all-clear signal to assure them everything's back to normal. Except that it isn't. Over the coming days, the citizens of Clarence fall under the spell of a strange and powerful drug that unlocks their memories. They become trapped by their own reminiscences: of love and death, of war and childhood, of family they've lost and sins they've committed. Beautifully rendered with a light comic touch, this bittersweet first novel is about more than the sum of its beguiling parts. It's about the need to remember, and about the bliss of forgetting. A universe peopled by exquisitely drawn characters, Spilling Clarence is a funny, moving story with a truly original premise that introduces the impressive talents of an exciting new writer.
About the Author
Anne Ursu is the author of the novels Spilling Clarence and The Disapparation of James. Both books were Booksense 76 picks. Spilling Clarence was awarded a Minnesota Book Award, selected for Barnes and Noble's Discover Great New Writers program, and nominated for a Bay Area Book Reviewers Award. Anne has written on theater and the arts in Minneapolis and Portland, ME, and her work has recently appeared in Glamour magazine. The books in her trilogy for children, The Cronus Chronicles will be published in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
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