Time Flies: A Novel

Time Flies: A Novel

4.4 20
by Claire Cook

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From the bestselling author of the beloved book Must Love Dogs, later made into a film starring John Cusack and Diane Lane, comes a new novel about what happens when we think everything is falling apart, and discover that we can pick up the pieces after all.

Years ago, Melanie followed her husband, Kurt, from the New England beach town where their two…  See more details below


From the bestselling author of the beloved book Must Love Dogs, later made into a film starring John Cusack and Diane Lane, comes a new novel about what happens when we think everything is falling apart, and discover that we can pick up the pieces after all.

Years ago, Melanie followed her husband, Kurt, from the New England beach town where their two young sons were thriving to the suburbs of Atlanta. She’s carved out a life as a successful metal sculptor, but when Kurt leaves her for another woman, having the tools to cut up their marriage bed is small consolation.

She’s old enough to know that high school reunions are often a big disappointment, but when her best friend makes her buy a ticket and an old flame gets in touch to see if she’ll be going, she fantasizes that returning to her past might help her find her future…until her highway driving phobia resurfaces and threatens to hold her back from the adventure of a lifetime.

Time Flies is an epic trip filled with fun, heartbreak, and friendship that explores what it takes to conquer your worst fears…so you can start living your future.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Cook (Must Love Dogs) returns (after Wallflower in Bloom) with a funny, bittersweet new novel. Melanie is a metal artist in Atlanta struggling to get her sculptures acknowledged. One of her pieces has just been accepted into a juried art show and sold to a local chef. Melanie, who has recently separated from her husband, Kurt, is also dealing with her new life as a single, middle-aged woman. A potential beau seems to be in a similar place in life, but she's not sure where she stands with him. Meanwhile, her best friend, BJ, pesters her to return to Massachusetts for their high school reunion. Despite the crippling phobia of highways she has recently developed, Melanie is finally convinced to go when an old high school flame starts sending her flirty emails. Melanie's road trip with BJ to the reunion forces her to acknowledge her fear, come to terms with her past, and find a direction for her future. VERDICT Fans of Elizabeth Buchan and Mary Kay Andrews will enjoy Cook's strong characters and the sense of humor that infuses her latest heartwarming novel.—Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Brazoria Cty. Lib. System, TX
From the Publisher
"After accompanying Melanie and B.J on their hysterical road trip, readers will feel like they’ve made friends for life."

“A spunky, lighthearted road trip down memory lane. . . . The banter is a lot of fun, and the characters’ realization of what is important is certain to make readers yearn for reconnections of their own. Another delightful beach read from the author of Wallflower in Bloom.”

“A fun and inspiring read . . . Cook’s humor and narrative execution is impeccable; Deirdre’s increasing self-consciousness elicits support for her to overcome insecurity and endure in her journey to find happiness and fulfillment on her own terms.”

“Filled with sweet humor and all the eye-rolling moments of jumbled yet ultimately loving family relations, romance, and coming into one’s own, this women’s fiction is a definite pleaser for devotees of the genre.”

“Cook’s penchant for hitting the emotional sore spot and combining it with humor hits the mark. ... A thoroughly enjoyable and amusing read, this story is sure to delight.”

“Cook has a light, fun voice and always infuses her stories with great wit and heart.”

Romance Reviews Today
“Full of engaging characters and humorous situations. . .This lighthearted story will have readers plumbing its hidden depths and enjoying the ride.”
"A summer book list isn't complete without a Claire Cook book on it."
Shelf Awareness
"[Cook] delivers again. . . . Past and present riotously collide and give birth to an ending as heartfelt as it is hopeful."
Bourne Courier
"[Cook's] characters are always looking for the next exciting chapter in their lives and her tenth novel, Time Flies, takes her trademark theme in a thought provoking new direction. . . .The resulting story is both touching and hilarious."
Savannah Magazine
"Genuine, deftly drawn characters. . . [Cook's] poignancy and sassy humor resonate with readers; her theme of reinvention, uplifts and inspires. . . . It's the perfect companion for an afternoon under a beach umbrella with sand between your toes."
Boston Globe
"Time Flies shows it's never too late to reinvent yourself. . . . [A] charming saga."
Free Lance-Star
"This beach-bag-worthy story is one that may appeal to those who can commiserate with starting over."
Times Record News
"The perfect summer beach read...Funny, charming, and downright lovable!"
The News-Gazette
"Laugh-out-loud funny. . .Time Flies is the perfect novel to read on your summer vacation or while lounging by the pool."
Cape Cod Times
“Cook has a light, fun voice and always infuses her stories with great wit and heart.”
“A spunky, lighthearted road trip down memory lane...The banter is a lot of fun, and the characters’ realization of what is important is certain to make readers yearn for reconnections of their own. Another delightful beach read from the author of Wallflower in Bloom.”
New York Journal of Books
“More than a beach read, Claire Cook’s Time Flies is an absorbing and humorous look at lives lived during a particular era. . . . The author’s facility with setting evocative scenes past and present is refreshing.”
Adriana Trigiani
"Claire Cook has an original voice, sparkling style, and a window into family life that will make you laugh and cry."
Elin Hilderbrand
“Reading Claire Cook might be the most fun you have all summer.”
Meg Cabot
"Charming, engagingly quirky, and full of fun, Claire Cook just gets it.”
Kirkus Reviews
The latest novel from Cook (Wallflower in Bloom, 2012, etc.). When Melanie's husband, Kurt, surprises her by packing up their family, including two young sons, to move from Boston to Atlanta, she copes by throwing herself into metal sculpture, an idea inspired by the garage full of welding equipment left by the previous owners of their new home. When Kurt later leaves her for another woman, the artwork saves her sanity and attracts the attention of the charming restaurateur Ted Brody. By this time, the two boys are grown and gone and maintain no contact with their father, but they check in on their mom regularly. In the midst of these events, her best friend from high school, B.J., is nagging her to come North for the upcoming high school reunion. Melanie doesn't want to, until she starts getting emails from a former boyfriend, now divorced, who is hoping to see her there. Melanie flies to Boston, where she sees old friends and her sister for the first time in many years. While there, she shares driving duties with B.J, which requires confronting her crippling fear of highways. When Kurt turns up at the reunion (sans other woman), Melanie considers her options, which now include the possibility of a relationship with Ted, who has a laugh she comes to love. After accompanying Melanie and B.J on their hysterical road trip, readers will feel like they've made friends for life. Women will like this book.

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Time Flies

  • When my cell phone rang, I’d just finished cutting up my marriage mattress.

    I put down my chain saw carefully so it wouldn’t scratch the hardwood floor. Then I slid my safety glasses up to the top of my head like a headband and reached for my phone.

    “Hello-oh,” I said.

    “Hey,” B.J. said. “It’s me. What’s up?”

    I puffed a sprinkling of sawdust from the phone. “Not much. Same old, same old.”

    “So, check your email—the invitation just went out. You are coming up for our reunion, right?”

    “No way.” When I shook my head for emphasis, more sawdust flaked from my hair like dandruff. “Come on, B.J., we’ve been over this at least eight times already.”

    B.J. blew a raspberry into the phone line. “No way is not an acceptable answer. You’re going. No excuses. You’re not still mooning around about Kurt, are you?”

    “You mean like counting the days till he sends me a Hallmark card for Almost Ex-Wife’s Day?”

    B.J. still laughed exactly like she had in high school, a series of sharp staccato barks. “See, your sense of humor is back.”

    “Ha,” I said.

    “What you need is some fun in the sun. Plus, if you ask me, there aren’t nearly enough opportunities to act like a teenager once you get to be our age, so we’ve got to grab any chance we get. And the good news is we can drink legally this time around.”

    “Great,” I said, “but I’m still not going.”

    “Jan wants all of us to stay at her beach house for the week—”

    “Jan who?”

    “Don’t give me Jan who. Jan Siskin. Actually, I think it’s Reeves now. Or maybe it was Reeves but it’s now Schroff. Or maybe it’s Siskin again. Who cares. Anyway, as you well remember, we kind of hung out with her all four years in high school. And now she has a beach house.”

    “I don’t think she really even liked me,” I said.

    B.J. aimed a blast of air across seven states and into my ear. “Hey, you haven’t heard from Veronica, have you?”

    I sighed. “You mean in this millennium?”

    “She’s not returning my phone calls or emails. But. She. Will.”

    I let B.J.’s tenacity wash over me like a wave. When I looked down, I saw that my non-cell-phone-holding palm was open, faceup, as if to emphasize my own uncertainty.

    B.J. was still talking. “So, you know how I’m on the committee, right? Well, we’ve decided we’re not going to mention either the year we graduated or how many years it’s been. We’re just going to call it The Marshbury High School Best Class/Best Reunion Evah.”

    “That’s ridiculous.” I opened one of the French doors to the deck off the master bedroom to get rid of the gasoline smell. I seriously needed to upgrade to a battery-operated chain saw.

    “The committee consensus is that the actual numbers might be a turnoff. It’s a lot of years to wrap your brain around, and none of us feels that old, and most of us don’t look that old, especially the women, so we just thought it would be more fun if we focused on the positive.”

    “Which would be?”

    B.J. let out a little snort. “That we’re still alive?”

    I took a quick stab at the math, then gave up. “How many years has it been anyway?”

    “Don’t even think about it,” B.J. said. “It’s way too depressing. Come on, we haven’t seen each other in forever.”

    “Okay, so how about you go to the reunion, and then you can fly down here and tell me all about it.”

    “Mel, I’m serious.”

    “Me, too. I’m seriously not going, B.J., so drop it. Please.”

    “Give me one good reason you shouldn’t go.”

    I sighed. “Everyone else will dress better, look better, be better than I am. High school reunions are like a test for personal success and I’ll slide right off the bell curve. I’m not famous, I didn’t turn into a knockout, my husband left me. And I stopped wearing heels years ago and now my feet will only tolerate work boots and flip-flops.”

    “One good reason,” B.J. said. “I’m still waiting.”

    After we hung up, I put my cell phone down and contemplated the savaged chunks of king-size bed before me.

    It’s not that I was bitter. I mostly just wanted the springs.

    Okay, maybe I was a teensy bit bitter.

    Our two sons, Trevor and Troy, were seven and six when Kurt had dragged me kicking and screaming to the suburbs of Atlanta. They were thriving on sandy summers boogie-boarding at the beach and snowy winters sledding down the biggest hill in our little seaside Massachusetts town. We lived a tree-lined walk away from the best local elementary school. I had a boring but comfortable part-time job answering phones for a nearby art gallery that let me work my hours around my kids. Mothers’ hours.

    Life was good.

    Kurt said his job offer had come out of the blue. As if it were luck. Or destiny. Kismet. Serendipity. His old boss had taken a job at a big Atlanta corporation a few years before, where he’d been moving up ever since. And now he wanted Kurt to come work for him.

    “Out of the blue,” I repeated as I stirred a pot of homemade chicken alphabet soup with a wooden spoon. “He just called you out of the blue and said uproot your whole family and take them away from everything they’ve ever loved because I have a job for you. Even though you already have a perfectly good job.”

    Trevor ran through the kitchen and out the back door. “Give it back,” Troy yelled as he ran after him.

    “Dinner,” I yelled. “Ten minutes.”

    Kurt shrugged. He loosened the blue-striped tie I’d bought because it reminded me of the way his eyes changed shades in different lights. He unbuttoned the top button of his white shirt. Long-sleeved. Extra starch.

    I stared him down. In the fading light of the early evening, his eyes were a dark navy, almost black.

    He looked away first.

    I flicked on the kitchen lights and turned my attention back to the soup.

    “Smells good,” he said as I stirred.

    I kept stirring.

    “Okay, I put out a few feelers,” he finally said. “It’s time to move on. I think I’ve taken things as far as I can here.”

    For a quick, crazy second I thought he was talking about the boys and me.

    After I loaded the bed chunks into heavy-duty black plastic contractor bags and dragged them out to the garage, I vacuumed the bedroom. Then I hauled my mattress-flecked self into the bathroom and turned on the water. It sputtered like it always did, then burst forth in a ferocious battle of brushed-nickel showerheads and body jets. I peeled off my clothes and let the wet needles pummel me like a bad marriage.

    I towel dried while I contemplated putting on actual pants, the kind that zipped and buttoned at the waist and everything. This seemed extreme, so I went with my regular uniform: yoga pants, baggy T-shirt, flip-flops.

    I stood on my stone front steps and blinked against the bright North Georgia sunshine. The sun rose later here, and eventually I’d found out that it was because we were so close to the central time zone line. And just south of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Coolish, evergreen-scented mornings gave way to steamy semi-tropical afternoons that stretched into long cook-out-on-the-back-patio evenings. An enormous magnolia held court in the front yard, surrounded by camellias and Lenten roses, as well as a solitary blue hydrangea that reminded me of home. But I’d also planted windmill palms and banana trees, plants I’d thought would only grow as far north as Florida. Surprisingly, they’d thrived here.

    As soon as I opened the barn doors on one side of my Honda Element, I leaned in and flipped one of the two backseats forward at the waist. Then I lifted the whole seat up and hooked it to the side of the car with the carabiner that dangled from the ceiling. I circled the car and repeated the steps on the other side. An amazing amount of empty space materialized, anchored by the Element’s black nonslip rubber-matted floor, which actually hosed down for easy cleaning. I wanted a house like that.

    “All aboard,” I said in my cheeriest talking-out-loud-to-yourself voice. “Next stop, Ikea.” I’d done my online research. You couldn’t beat the design for the price. After all the years of compromise—Kurt’s traditional taste trumping my own—I wanted a clean-lined, ultramodern bed. The latex mattress I’d decided on even came rolled, so I’d just get someone at the store to help me shove everything into the back of my Element and then figure out how to get it inside once I got home.

    I was fine as I backed out of my driveway. I rolled down the hill in my safe little neighborhood and pretended I was just going to Publix or Whole Foods, or to get my hair done. I was still fine as I navigated the interminable crush of traffic on Roswell Road, with lanes that mysteriously disappeared and tried to trick you into turning right when you didn’t want to.

    Long rows of burgundy and pink crepe myrtle graced the islands in the center of the road, flanked by mounds of cheery yellow Stella d’Oro daylilies. Enclaves of new brick and stone neighborhoods peeked out between clumps of chain stores and restaurants. If you could shop it or eat it, you could find it within a three-mile radius of my house. Except for Ikea.

    The instant I saw the sign for the highway, my mouth went dry. I’d stay to the right, drive as slowly as I needed to. Anybody who didn’t like it could just go around me.

    My hand shook as I clicked on my blinker.

    I could do this.

    I willed my foot to stay on the accelerator. I wound my way up the on-ramp slowly, pretending I didn’t see the car behind me getting right on my butt.

    The feeder lane dumped me out onto the highway. The car behind me screeched past and catapulted into the maze of speeding steel as if it were hurling itself off a cliff. Lane after lane after lane stretched out to my left, cars flying downhill at terrifying speeds.

    Anxiety sat on my chest like a baby elephant. The skin on my arms prickled, closing me in, walling off any hope of escape. Impending doom climbed in and took the passenger seat beside me.

    My right leg started to shake from working so hard to keep my foot on the gas pedal. I crept along in the slow lane, trying not to feel the angry force of the mammoth vehicles that whizzed by my left shoulder—SUV, tractor-trailer, SUV, car, SUV, SUV, SUV. I risked a quick peek at the speedometer and made myself push it up to fifty-five. That was respectable, wasn’t it? I mean, if you could drive fifty-five miles per hour, you were perfectly normal, right?

    I just had to drive past four highway exits, take the fifth, and then it was only a hop, skip, and a jump to Ikea.


    A sign came into view announcing that the first exit was coming up in three miles. I tried to picture driving past it, but I couldn’t even imagine reaching it. For three endless miles I white-knuckled it.

    By the time the first exit finally appeared, I knew I had to get off the highway. But it felt as though fear had frozen my arms in place.

    I had to get off. I couldn’t get off.

    I forced myself to lunge for my blinker, my hand shaking as if I had Parkinson’s, and managed to turn the wheel and escape the highway four exits too soon. I crawled my way to a semi-deserted fast-food parking lot just down the road from the off-ramp.

    I leaned back against the headrest until my sweat chilled and my heartbeat returned almost to normal.

    Maybe I’d just sleep in the guest room.

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  • Meet the Author

    Claire Cook wrote her first novel in her minivan when she was forty-five. At fifty, she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the film adaptation of her second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She is the bestselling author of nine other novels and divides her time between the suburbs of Atlanta and Boston. Visit her at ClaireCook.com.

    Brief Biography

    Scituate, Massachusetts
    Date of Birth:
    February 14, 1955
    Place of Birth:
    Alexandria, Virginia
    B.A., Film and Creative Writing, Syracuse University

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