Charlie St. Cloud = 71 down, 29 to go

2 Aug

Charlie St. Cloud
Ben Sherwood
320 pages

This book was a lighthearted read tugging at some surface emotional heartstrings. When still a teenager, not yet old enough to drive, Charlie St. Cloud borrows a neighbor’s car to take he and his younger  brother, Sam, to a Red Sox game. On the way home, Sam and Charlie are both killed in a car accident…but Charlie is brought back by a very determined EMS.

While they are together on the other side, Charlie makes a promise to Sam…to never leave him alone. That promise anchors both of them and causes a pause button to be hit on both of their lives. Though Charlie continues to age in the real world, Sam is frozen in time as a 12 year old. Charlie becomes the lead caretaker at the cemetery where Sam is buried. After he locks the gates each night, he travels deep into the woods where he has constructed a baseball field, where he and Same can play catch every night. Along with time, Charlie has acquired the gift to see the spirits of the dead.

One afternoon Charlie meets Tess, a beautiful woman on a visit to her father’s grave. They make plans to have dinner that night, and the depth of emotion they both feel is unprecedented in either of their lives – as they are both young adults who have cut themselves off from the hope of love and happiness. But a turn of fate – a slight version of the one seen in The Sixth Sense – quickly changes things when reality comes crashing in and it turns out that Tess is a spirit. She had seemed so real to Charlie. Whereas normally he could differentiate between a spirit and real person, Tess seems as real to his touch as any flesh-and-blood human.

At the same time, Charlie learns that Tess had taken her boat out for a test run in advance of her trip to solo sail around the world. So when he met her sitting by her father’s grave, she was actually dealing with a lightening bolt to her boat and most of the town out scouring the waters for her.Assuming that her spirit meant that she died while on her boat, Charlie drinks himself into oblivion, but when he comes to, he realizes that he spirit slipping away from him actually means that she is still clinging to life somewhere out on the water.

For the first time in more than 13 years, Charlie missed his nightly baseball game with Sam and races to find Tess. After he locates Tess, she is rescued, but is in a deep coma. Charlie visits her religiously, but wonders, first, if Tess will ever awake, and second, if she will remember their tender night together and the love they shared. The book concludes with a fairytale ending – Tess in Charlie’s arms.

This was a good book with a sentimental storyline. Here’s a line early on in the book that mixes cynicism and hope:

Believe me, I know we all cling to life and its certainties. It’s not easy in these cynical times to case off the hardness and edge that get us through our days. But try just a little. open your eyes and you will see what I can see.

I will admit though I’m not sold on Zac Efron playing Charlie St. Cloud in the movie version of this book, which is why I couldn’t bring myself to use that version of the book cover as my image for this entry.


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