Book Discussion Questions: The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer

Cover of The Dive From Clausen's PierTitle: The Dive From Clausen’s Pier
Author: Ann Packer
Page Count: 432 pages
Genre: Coming of Age
Tone:  Moving, bittersweet

Summary from publisher:

At the age of twenty-three Carrie Bell has spent her entire life in Wisconsin, with the same best friend and the same dependable, easygoing, high school sweetheart. Now to her dismay she has begun to find this life suffocating and is considering leaving it–and Mike–behind. But when Mike is paralyzed in a diving accident, leaving seems unforgivable and yet more necessary than ever. The Dive from Clausen’s Pier animates this dilemma–and Carrie’s startling response to it–with the narrative assurance, exacting realism, and moral complexity we expect from the very best fiction.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. This is Packer’s first novel. Why do you think it has become so popular? What is the appeal?

2. Packer originally wrote this in the 3rd person, but then rewrote it in the first person. Would you have felt differently about the book had she left it in the 3rd person? How and why?

3. What contrasts did you find in the book, whether in personalities or in other areas?

4. What was the major theme or themes of the story?

5. Carrie asks the question on page 133, “How much do we owe the people we love?” How much do we owe them? How does she answer this question thru her actions in the book? Does her answer change throughout the book? How?

6. What are the different perceptions people have of Carrie’s going to New York? What are her perceptions?

7. Carrie is feeling guilty about leaving and she asks her mother, What kind of person does that make me? Her mother replies, the kind of person you are. You could just have easily have stayed. But that wouldn’t make you a good person any more than leaving makes you a bad one. You’re already made, honey. That’s what I mean. Are people defined by what they do, or by how others perceive them, or by neither?

8. Compare or contrast Mike and Kilroy’s characters. What attracted Carrie to both of them? Were you surprised to find out that Kilroy was forty?

9. What was Carrie’s relationship to Mike based on? What about your relationship to Kilroy?

10. Jamie and Lane are both Carrie’s friends but they are very different also. On page 254 Packer describes their relationships. Do you see a relation between the two female friend characters and the two lovers of Carrie? How?

11. What part does sewing play in the story? How does it change throughout the book?

12. How far can we escape our upbringing? How does that question relate to Carrie? How about to Kilroy?

13. Does finding out the mystery of his family, both meeting his parents, and finding out about his brother’s death explain who Kilroy is? Why or why not?

14. What makes Carrie finally return home? Does guilt or obligation make her decide to stay or is it something else – what? Is she settling, giving up or being true to herself?

15. At the end of the book Mike asks,
“We never would have gotten married would we?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “It was beginning to seem like not the best idea.”
“I think I know why,” he said. “It was like we already were married – we’d gone too far.” What does Mike mean by saying that? What went wrong or changed in Carrie’s and Mike’s relationship? Did Carrie or Mike change, or did their circumstances change, or both?

16. Envision an inverted version of the book written from Mike’s point of view in which Carrie had the accident. How might their lives have played out differently? What does this exercise reveal about their relationship and Carrie’s character?

Other Resources
Lit Lovers’ Discussion Questions
Reading group guide from publisher
Video of Ann Packer on writing
An interview with Ann Packer

If you liked The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, try…

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Swimming by Joanna Hershon
Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult