Point Clear: A Novel

( 4 )


Caroline Berry is lost at twenty-seven, living in New York -- not as the writer she once hoped to be but as an assistant at two part-time jobs. In an attempt to figure out a next step, she heads for Point Clear, Alabama, to spend several weeks relaxing at an old southern hotel on Mobile Bay -- unaware that it will soon lie in the direct path of Hurricane Ivan.

Ignoring evacuation orders, Caroline hides out in the hotel and braves the storm alone. The next morning, she meets a ...

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Point Clear: A Novel

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Caroline Berry is lost at twenty-seven, living in New York -- not as the writer she once hoped to be but as an assistant at two part-time jobs. In an attempt to figure out a next step, she heads for Point Clear, Alabama, to spend several weeks relaxing at an old southern hotel on Mobile Bay -- unaware that it will soon lie in the direct path of Hurricane Ivan.

Ignoring evacuation orders, Caroline hides out in the hotel and braves the storm alone. The next morning, she meets a mysterious man on the beach as he enters the churning water for a swim. He is Walker Galloway, a champion swimmer, which she discovers after learning of his disappearance in the newspaper. Realizing she is the last to have seen him, Caroline becomes entangled with his family and friends, and as she is gradually drawn in to Walker's world, she finds, at last, the story she was meant to tell.

Point Clear is a compelling tale of one woman's quest for self -- who finds it only when searching for another.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A subtle novel about an introspective young woman's search for selfhood. . . . A warm tale." — Publishers Weekly

"In remarkably elegant and evocative prose, Jennifer Paddock reveals that it's not only the big moments that can change a life, but the deceptively quiet ones, like the eye of the hurricane her heroine passes through." — Leah Stewart, author of The Myth of You and Me

"A luminous celebration . . . filled with mystery, suspense, and beauty." — Michelle Richmond, author of Dream of the Blue Room

"Bold in its simplicity, honesty, and precision. You may be picked up off your feet and spun around, but Paddock's skill and heart will set you down just right." — Lisa Glatt, author of A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That

Publishers Weekly
Paddock follows up her well-received debut, A Secret Word, with a subtle novel about an introspective young woman's search for selfhood. In elegiac prose, Paddock follows 27-year-old Caroline Berry, an Oklahoma transplant eking out a living in New York City who's had a case of writer's block since she dropped out of the NYU writing program. After inheriting some money from her grandfather, she heads to a family retreat in Point Clear, Ala., where she hopes to find solid footing and begin a novel. Instead she arrives just in time for Hurricane Ivan. Walking along the beach in the hurricane's aftermath, Caroline meets a young man, Walker, who later goes missing. This event engages both her heart and her imagination and gives the remainder of the novel a focus, as Caroline makes it her mission to write Walker's story, several versions of which are included. Though some readers may wish for a conflict of some sort-virtually everyone Caroline encounters wants nothing more than to assist her-Caroline's evolution as a writer makes for a warm tale. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Oklahoma girl needing a break from New York's hectic pace takes a vacation at an Alabama resort...just as Hurricane Ivan shows up. Caroline Berry came to NYU from Tulsa with dreams of being a writer. Now 27 years old, she doesn't exactly write, but cadges a sort of literary living, holding part-time jobs assisting a famous restaurant critic and a literary agent. At the start of the novel, Caroline has had it with Manhattan and her career, so she's taking a three-week sabbatical at the Grand Hotel, a classy old resort beloved by her family in Point Clear, Ala., on Mobile Bay. But Hurricane Ivan gets in the way of her R&R, bearing down on Point Clear with a powerful wrath. Since Paddock (A Secret World, 2004) needs something of interest to happen at this point-it's eluded her so far-she has Caroline hide out in the hotel when the evacuation orders come. In the storm's immediate aftermath, Caroline comes across an intriguing young man on the beach. She and Walker have a brief chat before he dives into the bay's choppy waters. When Caroline later discovers that Walker has gone missing, the mystery of his possibly suicidal act starts to obsess her, giving a charge and purpose to her writing. Paddock's off-handed prose ("The place was not crowded but not empty either") makes one long for anything to occur, but not even a hurricane can enliven this tale. Astonishingly dull.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743287821
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 8/1/2006
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 539,442
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Paddock is the author of A Secret Word. She lives in Point Clear, Alabama.

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

Point Clear

By Jennifer Paddock


Twenty-seven-year-old Caroline Berry is living a life of drifting solitude in New York City, working two jobs while her dream of being a writer is slowly fading. Unfulfilled, a little lost, and suffering from an intensifying case of vertigo, she makes an uncharacteristically bold decision to leave her jobs in an attempt to jump start her life and writing career, which leads her to a retreat at a grand old Southern hotel — a favorite of her late grandfather's — in Point Clear, Alabama.

No sooner does she arrive than Hurricane Ivan strikes, and instead of evacuating with the other hotel guests, Caroline secretly cloisters herself there until it passes. When a man she chances to meet on the beach in the storm's aftermath ends up missing, Caroline can't help being drawn into his life as she tries to sort out her own.

Discussion Points

  1. Caroline's vertigo first manifests after she learns about her grandfather's death. How does its development highlight and symbolize the dizzying disconnection she feels to everything around her?
  2. Caroline believes that "the death of someone you loved would always color everything," and that you can never get over it. How do the deaths of her father and grandfather color her life?
  3. Compare Caroline's almost-suicidal desire to risk the storm from her hotel room and her imagined versions of Walker's post-storm swim in the bay. Do you think Caroline really wanted to die in the hurricane? Did you think that Walker really wanted to die in the bay?
  4. Caroline remembers her family as "close" during their years surviving tornadoes in Tulsa, and feels that her time in the hurricane is just as important, even though she is alone. Why does she feel this way?
  5. When Anderson Cooper comes to the hotel to cover the approach of Hurricane Ivan, Caroline muses that there is a kind of connection through grief between herself (due to her father's car accident) and Anderson Cooper and his mother (due to the tragic death of his brother/her son). Do you agree with this theory?
  6. Why do you think the author chose to create Walker and Daniel — best friends — as highly accomplished, professional athletes who haven't quite attained the pinnacle of their careers? How does this compare to Caroline's abandonment of tennis after her father's death, or her avoidance of writing a novel while living in New York City?
  7. Caroline mentions several times that she feels like she and Walker are "the same person." What similarities are there? Why is this connection important to the development of the novel?
  8. In the final lines of Point Clear, Caroline implies that Walker "saved" her. How has her obsession with Walker and her deliberate forays into his life revitalized her own?
  9. Discuss the significance of the title, "Point Clear," to the characters and to the overall meaning of the novel.
  10. If you've read Jennifer Paddock's first novel, A Secret Word, how do you think Point Clear compares? Do you see similarities of style, character development, or voice? How do you think Paddock is developing as a writer?

Enhance Your Book Club Experience

  1. Take some time to do a little research on competitive sports, such as tennis and swimming, so you can get inside Caroline, Daniel, and Walker's world. Report your impressions to your Book Club and discuss how your newly acquired information has or hasn't changed your perspective on the characters.
  2. Get some ideas about what it's like to live in Alabama — its history, beaches, festivals, and landmarks — by visiting tourist websites to give yourself a point of reference.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2007

    Read in one night

    I really enjoyed reading this one. I stayed up late and read it in one night. I found it to be very well written with a plot that progressed nicely.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007

    I was very disappointed

    I grew up near Point Clear and know the hotel like the back of my hand. The storyline did not meet my expectations for a good read. I did not recommend it to any of my friends, especially those who grew up there with me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2007

    Loved It

    Great book - loved it. Engrossing story - easily piques and sustains the reader¿s interest. VERY clever ending. I'm glad I found this author - looking forward to reading more from her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2006


    Twenty-seven years old Caroline Berry left Oklahoma to attend the renowned NYU writing program. However, she drops out of the program as she struggles to earn a living. On top of her financial woes, Caroline finds she suffers from writer¿s block unable to put together two coherent sentences.---------------- She needs a change, but the opportunity finally occurs when she inherits some money from her late grandfather. Caroline leaves the Big Apple for three weeks at the Grand Hotel, a family favorite in Point Clear, Alabama where she plans to write the great American novel. She soon meets a young man Walker on the beach. However, her idle time is devastated by Hurricane Ivan¿s assault on the Mobile Bay area and Walker vanishing. With a theme in mind, Caroline begins to write Walker¿s tale even as she investigates what happened to him fearing suicide will be the ending of his and her tale.-------------------------- Caroline makes the tale as a wannabe writer who finds her subject. The story line focuses on her efforts to make it and cleverly offers the evolution of her work on Walker. Though everyone is super nice and cooperative and the action somewhat lacking, readers will enjoy following Caroline as she obsesses over THE SECRET WORD that will enable her to tell the world what led to what happened to Walker by writing about this apparent tragedy.----------- Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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