“The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud” by Ben Sherwood

Charlie is a talented, promising student in high school, but when he takes his little brother Sam out to the ball game one evening, it ends in tragedy when they are involved in a fatal car crash and Sam dies. Unable to leave behind Sam, years later Charlie has taken a caretaker job at the cemetary where his brother is buried, but when he meets Tess, he’s forced to choose between the memory of his brother and the possibilities of the future.

I read this book in 2005 when it first came out, but as it’s one of my reading groups books for next month, I thought I’d re-read it to see if it was a enjoyable as I remembered. Thankfully, it was.

It starts with a death, and I’m not ashamed to admit I was sat in the coffee shop with tears running down my face while the story of the car crash that kills Sam unfolds. It’s an emotional roller coaster all the way from here, with moments sadness and joy woven throughout the book, and although it’s a tale of loss, it’s an uplifting experience dealing with the acceptance of the death of a loved one, and finding out how to move on and look to the future.

I thought the sailing descriptions were extremely evocative, and the sense of peril in the ferocious storm was palpable. The small town feeling of the New England coastal town where the book is set gives a feeling of wistfulness and nostalgia, which could make the book feel over sentimental, but the author keeps our feet on the ground with the imperfections of the characters and steers clear of mawkishness.

As much as I loved it, I still preferred Sherwood’s first novel, The Man Who Ate The 747, but I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud. I’m eagerly looking forward to the authors next book, which I believe is due out next year.

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