Accident is catalyst for illumination
Carrie Bell, like many 23-year-olds just out of college, is searching -- searching for true love, searching for a true vocation, waiting for life to begin. Trouble is, everyone thinks she has found her life. Engaged to her high school sweetheart, Carrie is thoroughly ensconced in Madison, Wisconsin -- the town where she grew up, went to high school and college and now works in a job that only vaguely interests her. Only those closest to her notice Carrie's inner rumblings of discontent, a feeling of uncertainty that even she cannot voice yet.
Her confusion is complicated by the title event that leaves her fiance a quadriplegic. However, it is this accident that serves as the catalyst to jog Carrie into actively questioning who she is, considering what place home and loyalty to family and friends will play in her life, and perhaps most importantly, figuring out how much of herself she owes to the people she loves.
In her first novel, Ann Packer, whose short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares and other literary magazines, convincingly evokes the mental landscape of a young woman caught in emotional territory in which great tragedy and great possibility comprise opposite sides of the same fence. Even as her protagonist grieves, Packer subtly illuminates Carrie's longing for a new life. Blessed with the ability to sew, Carrie unknowingly re-creates herself with each article of clothing she makes, even though she creates them primarily to get through each day as Mike, her fiance, lies in a coma. It is only after he awakens, that she, too, awakens to the questions and opportunities her life now holds. She flees Madison for New York City where new friends and a new love help her create a new path -- one that leads in a surprising direction.
Life isn't clear-cut and doesn't proceed according to plan or pattern, and the author effectively communicates this through her protagonist's interior dialogue and external conversations. With not a detail out of place, Packer has created a genuinely satisfying look at life's uncertainty.