Time Flies: A Novelby Claire Cook
Years ago, Melanie followed her husband, Kurt, from the New England beach town where their two/i>
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.
“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.”
- Publication date:
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- SIMON & SCHUSTER
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- 4 MB
Read an Excerpt
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—”
“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.
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.
- Scituate, Massachusetts
- Date of Birth:
- February 14, 1955
- Place of Birth:
- Alexandria, Virginia
- B.A., Film and Creative Writing, Syracuse University
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I have read every one of Claire Cook's novels, and like clockwork, I look forward to a new one to announce the beginning of summer for me. Sadly, I can never wait for a beach day to make a true beach read - I tear right into them! Selfishly, as someone who has gone through a divorce, I really related to this story. Melanie is such a great character and from the opening line I was rooting for her to reclaim her life and find her way on her own. The story is one so many of us at mid-life can relate to. That what next? stage of life. Claire Cook shows us that far from being over, mid-life is just a new opportunity to embrace challenges and drive off to new adventures, with or without a red Mustang and a co-pilot.
I cannot tell a lie. I normally don't gravitate toward the women's lit genre, but I found Time Flies by Claire Cook to be surprisingly good. My surprise is in no way meant as a disparaging comment on Claire Cook's skills as an author. In fact it is meant as a compliment. She has created a wonderful book in a genre I usually don't like. The dialogue between Melanie and her best friend, B.J., is witty and real and just the type of banter you'd expect from two women who have been friends since high school. This dynamic makes me long for my own friends in high school with whom I’ve lost contact. But life goes on, as they say, and that is also one of the themes of this book. Whether we like it or not, life goes on. Sometimes it takes us to wonderful places and sometimes we wonder how we ever ended up where we are today. Melanie comes face to face with where her life has led her, and she must deal with and own up to her part. In many ways this book is the story of a woman finally having her coming of age as an unexpectedly single empty-nester. Ms. Cook does a wonderful showing how Melanie faces (or not) the changes in her life and the confusion with how she's supposed to deal with things. There's no right or wrong answer, but rather finding value in oneself and deciding what is best. As these two women prepare to attend their long-awaited high school reunion, both realize that their lives are good and they've been lucky so far. And while most of the trip does not measure up to the lofty pedestal Melanie has placed it upon, she comes to realize that the quick fix and rose-colored glasses aren't the best answer to her challenges in life. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story about navigating the twists and turns of life.
Several months ago I read an advanced copy of Claire Cook's TIME FLIES, and from page one I was cheering for the main character, Melanie. Melanie is lovable, and real, and silly ... someone I would like to be friends with. She tells her story with heart and humor, and she exposes her vulnerability during a time when her life has been turned upside down. TIME FLIES is a rollicking fun yet poignant novel that's sure to hit home with anyone who has ever experienced heartbreak, fought against a phobia, entertained a fantasy, or dared to say yes to an unknown future peeking above the horizon of midlife. Claire Cook has crafted another winner that's guaranteed to be a favorite of book clubs and shared among girlfriends. Run out and buy this one, and pick up several copies as gifts!
Time Flies by Claire Cook Class reunions only allow those who have succeeded at their goals, show off. Melanie had no plans to go. She had been married for decades and she was divorcing him, Kurt. She is a metal sculptor where she would use any metal she could recycle and create a piece. Loved hearing the welding terms as that is one job my husband was trained to do. Love hearing of all the decorating ideas Barbara (bj) has plans for the reunion tables. Listening to the transformation of the box springs is genius, love hearing how they progress..and go for a ride of their life! I am finding this book hilarious at times as it reminds me of my reunion/school days and the same songs, style of clothes, etc. Love hearing about all the seashore things, sea glass, as I'm from the same area and she realizes the time has flown by as she sees the drastic changes, even the beach has suffered. So many songs and lyrics from my neck of the woods also that I totally remember. Reunion does not go as planned...love this book a lot for the work she does with her hands and her designs. I received this book from Edelweiss by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
(Lets say in two days) dunno probably in a few days
My first book by ms Cook and I enjoyed it very much. These characters are my age and I could relate to most of the story including the husband leaving for another woman during the empty nest period. Glad there was a satisfying ending. I will definitely read more books by this author.
I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book. This book totally entertained me from start to finish. What’s not to love about a road trip in a classic car with classic rock blasting away? I didn’t want it to end. I have to say I loved the quirky characters in the book. They made me laugh out loud. The book is written in first person in Melanie’s POV. I really liked her understated spunkiness. From the time she cut up her marriage bed, I was a fan. Her best friend, BJ, is her champion. BJ is outspoken and in-your-face. They make a great pair. I really recommend this lighthearted, fun book. I kept thinking it would make a fun movie. Although I did see Must Love Dogs, this is my first Claire Cook read. I really like her writing and plan to read more of her books.
What a great book! Claire, I think you are secretly following my life. For the most point, hit it straight on. What I love most about "Cook's Books" are how in every single one I can relate to each main character. I know that they are a little older than me, but in more ways than one they all somehow manage to mirror my life and give me an opportunity to laugh not only with the book, but also at myself. Reminds me that life is too short to take things so seriously. I look forward every year to the new "Cook Book". I am also so proud to have made it an annual tradition in the Shady Ladies gal pal group. Thanks Claire for the reminder that you need to be able to lighten up once in awhile!
Very funny and quirky. Good beach read
I loved this book (as I am so in the age bracket)! It has everything from BFFs, Thelma and Louise, music, humor, road trip, high school reunions, and phobias. I so related to this story, as also developed a highway phobia for about 3 yrs. ---and I also lived in Atlanta (inside the perimeter off Paces Ferry Road in Vinings). I literally had to Mapquest routes everywhere to refrain from getting on I-285 when going on business calls (do you know how difficult this is in Atlanta)? I would literally freeze on I-285, the same as Melanie in the book! It is a horrible feeling. Turns out doctor told me I had issues with my peripheral vision (a part of vision that occurs outside the very center of gaze). He stated if I am on a bridge with numerous roads, levels, cars, curves, etc…my eyes want to stay focused on all these elements and cannot focus on what is in front of me, thereby causing my dizziness -- causing a phobia of being dizzy and feel yourself leaning to the right. (Maybe this was Melanie’s issue :) Thanks again, Claire for this incredible book, as could so relate and feel as though I found my BFF! It will definitely make you laugh and want to be right there with the gals with the top down (I had a red Miata convertible then traded it for an SUV). BTW (the truck driver in the story was a riot)! Look forward to reading more --a must read!
This is the first book by Clair Cook I have read and I really enjoyed it. The story is fun and the characters are so relateable! It opened up my eyes to what my mom went thru as an empty nester--and what I will go thru when my kids are grown! This was a great book and I will definitely be reading more of Claire Cook's books!
This book will make you laugh and cry. This is the journey of Melanie and BJ to their class reunion. The question is: Do people ever change? Loved this book. could not put it down.
This was my favorite Claire Cook book and I have loved them all!
This book is awesome it is like a trip down memory lane with someone who was there with you the first time and remembers it jsut as well and sometimes better than you did. Made me remember my best friends over the years and realize that some days we still feel like the girl with her life ahead of her, some days we wonder how we go where we are and some days we wonder where we will end up, but for as different as we are , we all have lots in common too.
I'm still reading this book and trying hard not to give up on it but I have to tell you, the main characters are two of the whiniest, most annoying, phobia filled women I have ever encountered in a supposed fun, summer beach read!!! My girlhood friends and I just spent a weekend together at the beach last month and if any of them had acted like either of these crazy whacked out women, I would have packed my bags and headed home. I hate to give up on a book, especially one I have spent my hard earned money on, but this one is going to be tough to finish!
Another fun, fast read by Cook heralds the summer season. When Mel's best friend from high school, BJ, keeps emailing her about their upcoming high school reunion, she finally wears her down. Mel, a metal sculptor, can set her own hours and needs a break from Atlanta, where her ex, Kurt, is setting up housekeeping with his new girlfriend, Crissy. She heads home to Massachusetts, where old friends and possibilities await. There's lot of fun retro tie-ins as BJ and Melanie embark on their buddy style trip to the reunion.
If you are looking for the perfect summer beach read, look no further! Claire Cook's latest novel, "Time Flies," is just exactly what needs to be in your beach bag this season. It's funny, it's charming, and it's downright loveable! This story of two best friends and their big adventures during a week leading up to their high school reunion is a sweet look at the power of friendship. I adored the characters of Melanie and B.J., BFFs who have stuck by each other through high school, bad marriages, and might-have-been dreams. These are gals who you would want in your posse anytime, anywhere! This book is the one you want to have in your beach bag this summer! Plus it would make a great gift for girlfriends!