Synopses & Reviews
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud
tells the haunting story of a young man who narrowly survives a terrible car wreck that kills his little brother. Years later, the brothers’ bond remains so strong that it transcends the normal boundaries separating life and death. Charlie St. Cloud lives in a snug New England fishing village. By day he tends the lawns and monuments of the ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. Graced with an extraordinary gift after surviving the accident, he can still see, talk, and even play catch with Sam’s spirit. But townsfolk whisper that Charlie has never recovered from his loss.
Into his carefully ordered life comes Tess Carroll, a captivating, adventuresome woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that blows her back to harbor, to a charged encounter with Charlie, and to a surprise more overwhelming than the violent sea itself. Charlie and Tess discover a beautiful and uncommon connection that leads to a race against time and a desperate choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go.
Luminous, soulful, and filled with unforgettable characters, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is one of those rare, wise books that reveal the mysteries of the unseen world around us, gently transforming the worst pain of loss into hope, healing, and even laughter. Suspenseful and deeply moving, its startling climax reminds us that sometimes tragedies can bring about miracles if we simply open our hearts.
"Ben Sherwood is an amazing writer with the rare gift of evoking genuine emotion. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is touching, wise, and full of hope, everything a wonderful novel should be. Read it you'll be glad you did." Nicholas Sparks, bestselling author
"The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is one of the most magical love stories I've ever read. In his wonderfully inventive way, Ben Sherwood has written a shining affirmation of life." Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees
"Loved it, loved it, loved it!! Refreshingly romantic, dangerously good fun, hugely addictive. All too infrequently I pick up a book that is a pure pleasure to read....Intelligent, moving, and sweetly wise, Ben Sherwood is all set to find his way into the soft heart of American literature." Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat
"Sherwood's set-up might seem predictable at times, but the turns he takes are anything but." Denver Post
About the Author
Ben Sherwood is the author of The Man Who Ate the 747, a national bestseller that has been translated into thirteen languages. He was an award-winning journalist with NBC and ABC News, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, he lives with his wife in New York and Los Angeles, and is working on a new novel.
Reading Group Guide
Ben Sherwood captured our imaginations with his magical debut novel, The Man Who Ate the 747.
Now he brings us the unforgettable story of Charlie St. Cloud, who survived a tragic accident that would make him see the world in a whole new way. Though his little brother Sam did not live through the horrific collision on that moonlit night, Charlie has discovered a miraculous way to keep him close. Then Charlie meets Tess, a woman so beautiful and fearless that she makes him yearn to embrace the land of the living once again. But she doesnt realize shes in terrible jeopardy, facing impossible dangers that only Charlie can help her defeat. With a love that transcends everything you may have believed about life and death, Charlie embarks on a spellbinding adventure to save her, and revive his own heart as well.
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Ben Sherwoods The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud. We hope they will enrich your experience of this enchanting novel.
1. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud
opens with fireman Florio Ferrentes recounting of several lifesaving miracles. What role does Florio believe Divine intervention plays in his rescue work? Do you believe in miracles?
2. The novels title and epigraphs capture the notion that conventional definitions of life and death are tremendously limited, and many of the characters find themselves “in between” these realms, literally or figuratively. Which of the books characters do you perceive as being most alive—in any sense of the word?
3. What does the sustained baseball ritual at sunset between Charlie and Sam tell us about the power of love, and fear?
4. Discuss the significance of the events leading up to the car accident. Is it possible to explain the true “cause” of the crash? How do these ideas affect Charlie in the years after that night?
5. Compare the various spirits Charlie observes while hes on the job in the cemetery. What seems to determine their demeanor?
6. In what ways do Tess and Charlie bear similar emotional scars when they meet? Why does Tess crave self-sufficiency at all costs? What motivates her to set off on such a daunting around-the-world mission?
7. Ben Sherwood worked as a television news producer for many years. Do you detect any journalistic influences in the novel, or do you think Sherwoods fiction reflects the opposite of a reporters point of view?
8. How does Charlies experience and special gift compare with your own beliefs about the afterlife?
9. In each characters storyline, what distinctions are made between accident and fate, between chance and destiny? What ultimately saves Tess? From what was Charlie saved?
10. The novel contains several bullfighting references, especially in the name of Tesss boat, Querencia (the spot in the ring where the bull feels protected and secure). Why is the matador analogy an apt one for Charlie and Tess? What defines your querencia?
11. One of the main characters in Ben Sherwoods previous novel, The Man Who Ate the 747, goes to incredible lengths in a case of unrequited love, while the novels protagonist finds his life transformed when he unexpectedly meets his soul mate. In what way does The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud enhance and deepen these relationship ideas?
12. Although this novel is given a realistic setting and is populated by ordinary men and women, the plot is quite extraordinary. Why did the author choose such an idyllic small-town backdrop?
13. What is the effect of ending the novel with a point of view other than Charlies? Describe Florios role and approach as narrator. Does Florios function as storyteller have much in common with his earthly vocation?
14. If you were able to visit a lost loved one or friend in the same way Charlie connects with Sam, whom would you like to see? In the novel, spirits take on an idealized appearance. How do you think your loved one would appear to you? How would you spend your time together?
15. Sherwood dedicated to this novel to his new wife and to the memory of his father. In what ways are the ideas of love and loss related?