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Spilling Clarence: A Novel

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3.36  ·  Rating Details  ·  730 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
What if you could suddenly remember everything that ever happened in your life Would it be a blessing -- or a curseThe answer is found in Spilling Clarence, a satisfying, witty, romantic, and tender novel. In the fictional town of Clarence, Minnesota, a breakroom microwave sparks a smoky fire at the pharmaceutical factory and triggers a massive chemical spill. Panic-strick ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published January 2nd 2002 by Hyperion (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,424)
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Jaemi
Jan 11, 2009 Jaemi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
Clarence, Minnesota is a unique place. A small town, even with its University and Psychopharmaceutical Factory. Lives follow a fairly regular routine---for some it might even be a rut. But an enjoyable one. For most.

Bennie Singer and his daughter Sophie share a Friday ritual: a visit to Davis & Dean, the giant bookstore which sees Clarence as an experiment. Bennie loves to watch Sophie poor through the books, memorizing more facts than he can get his mind around. He's occupied in just this f
...more
Jared
Dec 06, 2008 Jared rated it really liked it
The town of Clarence lives in the shadow of a psychotropic drug factory. The factory burns down, leading to the release of some potent memory-stimulating drugs. The book deals with a number of people in the nearby town and how they are affected by the inability to shield their memories -- from the World War II veteran who was among the first into Dachau to a widower father and his author mother.

It's interesting how the author weaves together the personal stories and psychological theory. There's
...more
Linda Lipko
Feb 29, 2012 Linda Lipko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When small town Clarence, Minnesota experiences a chemical explosion from the manufacturer of a mind altering, anti depressant, the pharmaceutical factory isn't the only thing that melts down.

Systematically the town folk are bombarded with images from their past. While some memories are positive, the majority of Clarence experiences thoughts and obsessions regarding mistakes they made.

A turn meant for the right becomes the left with tragic results. A marriage to a non-love of a life causes an el
...more
Jacki
Dec 21, 2008 Jacki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh. I thought that the premise of this book was a good one: a drug company has a fire, thus exposing the members of the community to a chemical that opens up all kinds of memories in their brains.

The follow-through was just poor. I felt like the writing was weak and the story wasn't really 'full' enough. The characters were sort of cliche and there were story lines that didn't need to exist and some that weren't really followed up on.

I feel like this book could have comfortably been 70 pages sho
...more
Kelly
Nov 14, 2008 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katieeoh Lacanlale
One word to describe this book: MAGICAL.

This is practically one of the most unbelievable yet truthfully acclaimed books I’ve read for a long time now. This is just a book I found on a thrift store, sold to me for 20PHP and never expected that this book is really good once you came to understand all the details that come up together to formulate a much beautiful connection between the characters.

There was this small town named Clarence that’s living peacefully ever since and almost all of the pe
...more
John
Aug 14, 2011 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can’t remember if this is my 3rd or 4th read of this book. I love it. I have insisted that family and friends who are readers read it.

I love the characters.
I love the story.
I love the topic of memory
I love the writing style and all the various lists Ursu frequently includes.
I love the progression and resolution (or lack there of) for each character.

I remember the first time I read it, crying at the scene at the end between Suzanne and Madeline. I remember it because I was on the bus on the
...more
April
Mar 08, 2010 April rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
My favorite quote from this book is:

"I want you to know that no matter what happens, no matter how helpless you feel, no matter where the tide of life takes you, you always have a choice. You can always take action." - Madline Singer pg. 254

This book is an excellent reflection on the power and affect of memory. Of course, this book is an exaggeration - but there are still lessons to be learned and things to ponder. How much do our memories and pasts effect how we behave in the present, the choic
...more
Stephanie
Dec 05, 2007 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
I remember exactly when I was reading this book because of what was going on in my mind and the country. That said, it was a wonderful read and memorable all on its own - without personal or profound tie ins.
In some ironic way, the book is about a chemical spill that has the effect of invoking memories in all of the townspeople. It grips some people so massively that they become stuck in the past and unable to function on the day to day.
Sections of the book were so instinctual, like Ursu had p
...more
Connie
Mar 14, 2016 Connie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must say that to me, this book got off to a slow start. I was tempted to put it aside, but decided to stick with it. While it was kind of science fiction, which I don't care for, it also made me think of Stephen King, which is not necessarily bad. I think Mr. King would like it.
Rebecca McNutt
Although I think this book should've been a little longer, I still absolutely loved it and found that it deals with the topic of memory and nostalgia very creatively.
Monica Czernek wiant
The premise is fascinating: A fire at a pharmaceutical factory releases a chemical that hyper-activates the memories of everyone in a small Minnesota town. What would your life be like if you suddenly started experiencing moments that you'd forgotten? A reader can't help but ask that question, and it's a great question.

The story is told by an omniscient narrator with a detached, darkly comic tone. At times, it's delightfully clever. At other times, distracting. The narrative voice puts a layer o
...more
Elizabeth
Jul 27, 2014 Elizabeth rated it liked it
The chemical factory in Clarence, that specializes in manufacturing drugs for mental disorders, catches fire releasing the chemical deletrium into the air. The town slowly comes under the drug's spell and the restraints of memory are released, rendering Clarence residents nonfunctional.

An ideas novel with some beautiful meditations on memory with a hit-or-miss execution--similar in style to Kevin Brockmeier. There are many interesting routes this story goes down. The solitude of the individuals
...more
Brandy
A fire at the local psychopharmaceutical factory releases something into the air. Deletrium, they say, though no one is really sure exactly what it does on its own.

Soon, though, everyone knows: it's unlocking all the memories everyone thought they'd forgotten, all the memories better forgotten. Couples divorce over past slights; veterans go nearly catatonic remembering the concentration camps they saw. Bennie is reduced to a shell of himself, remembering his late wife and reliving his past with
...more
Judy
Sep 20, 2007 Judy rated it it was ok
Shelves: novel
A fascinating premise (as the result of a chemical leak, all the people in the town of Clarence begin to remember everything that has ever happened to them), but not well executed. I was disappointed.
Kat
Feb 28, 2016 Kat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really, really love Ursu's writing--she has a really beautiful way of focusing on specific stories while also taking a wider view, without making her books feel fragmented. Spilling Clarence is about a town where suddenly everyone can remember everything, but it's also about specific people and how the experience causes them to finally take ownership of their lives. The premise is a little silly and a little off-kilter, but it seems perfectly normal in the world of Clarence, which itself is sl ...more
Jane Healy
This intelligent book follows several main characters in the small town of Clarence, Illinois, before, during, and after it's psychopharmaceutical company spilled a chemical into the air. The effects of deletrium, a drug that causes every memory to return, range from blah to depression to trauma. The way the characters process their memories, grieve their pasts, and face the future leads to reader introspection. Though this sounds serious and heavy, it is written with a more light-hearted, matte ...more
Nyssa
Jul 05, 2009 Nyssa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my faves. One which inspires me to write more than most other books.
Sue
Apr 19, 2008 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scary subject-Gets you thinking
Abby Lewis
Jul 22, 2014 Abby Lewis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. It was very much set in the emotional, internal conflicts of the characters, and there were many. I enjoyed switching back and forth between all of their lives, sometimes lingering one one character's story longer than another's, just like flipping through the channels on TV. They were glimpses, snapshots of a life.

I loved this book because Anne Ursu captured the innermost thoughts and feelings of every single character perfectly. I would be stumped trying to descr
...more
Shirley
'Your mind is a lot like your closet. You try to hang up your clothes well and line up your shoes like little soldiers and keep your toys from tipping over, but sometimes you just can't keep it all organised.'

'What if you could suddenly remember everything that ever happened to you? Would it be a blessing - or a curse?' These are the questions posed in the notes on the back of the book.

Following a chemical spill at a local factory the inhabitants of Clarence start to remember, not just selectiv
...more
Tess Mertens-Johnson
The small town of Clarence (MN -fictional) has a pharmaceutical factory which has a fire. After the fire is contained, the residents begin to remember everything. It seems to start with the older residents (more to remember...?) and move on down the line of age.
All good and bad memories come back, but the townspeople are haunted with the bad, and regret takes many of them over.
Calvin, a gentleman who relives his time in s WWII concentration camp. Madeline, the author, who realizes she never real
...more
Amanda
I liked this book a lot. The basic premise is that there's a spill at the pharmaceutical factory in Clarence of a drug called deletrium (or something like that) which causes the residents of the town to have access to all their memories. The effects affect people differently--some are happy to have access to memory, some are disturbed, frightened or confused by what's happening to them. The story focuses on Bennie, a professor of psych at the local college who lost his wife a few years ago, and ...more
Elizabeth
Mar 08, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once upon a time in the land of the Minnesota Twins there lived a blogger named Batgirl who created a baseball world populated with mythological players. In her real world Batgirl was known as Anne Ursu and she wrote (and still writes) books – Spilling Clarence, The Disapparition of James, and for children The Chronus Chronicles (The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and coming in the summer of 2009, The Immortal Flame). Ms. Ursu received the 2003 Minnesota New Voice Award and was recognized as a ...more
Judi
Oct 04, 2012 Judi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The denizens of Clarence, Minnesota are about to experience an event, but they won't actually realize it while it is happening. When the local psychopharmaceutical company catches fire the town is briefly quarantined. For a few hours, there's a desperate hope that this is one of those life-threatening moments that you live to retell; but at the end of the day, they are merely told to go home from wherever they are. And to stay home for one whole day with the reassurance that the smoky air will c ...more
Melanie
Sep 10, 2009 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this one on a bit of a whim: nice cover, it's about memory, writing seems ok... and I am glad I did! The premise is that the town of Clarence, a quiet, peaceful place that depends on the local college and the local pharmaceutical plant for employment, suffers a chemical spill. The airborne chemical is deletrium, which has the capability of unlocking all the parts of the brain which hold memory. It acts randomly, causing differing reactions;we get to know each of the characters throug ...more
Sara Smith
What happens if a chemical spill affects your brain and makes you remember every memory you've ever had? Could you cope with all of that emotion all at once? The people of Clarence have to go through just such an experience. The younger children seem to cope better than the oldest people who have accumulated so many years of emotion. For some, it is a burden, but for Bennie, it's a revelation of the deceased wife who he had started to forget.
Pagh8264
Dec 19, 2014 Pagh8264 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably read this with a different viewpoint than most people. The subject of memory is at the forefront of my life since my aging parents' primary activity is reliving their lives. I like how the author questions the accuracy of the memory. Also she points out how the weight of their memories can paralyze the elderly or those Suffering a tragic loss like Bennie. I loved Madeline's words of wisdom that so much of life is temporary, bodies and memories, but the essence of a loved one is perman ...more
hadashi
Oct 09, 2007 hadashi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a delightful, magical tale of life as we know it, full of longing and regret and love and laughter. Simple things weave themselves into the complex, and out of it comes sharp, gorgeous insights into human character and one’s own heart. Clarence is an unremarkable town somewhere in the Midwest that has a university, a progressive Kendal-type senior citizens’ home, and a large pharmaceutical factory. One day the factory has an explosion and leaks deletrium into the air, which causes the re ...more
Vinathi Alaburger
Aug 03, 2012 Vinathi Alaburger rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People with a "story"
This is the most ADORABLE book ever. Granted, it was a little cliche at parts, but that doesn't matter because it was ADORABLE.
I've been a fan of Ursu for a while, so I guess I'm a little bias about all this (okay, maybe a lot), but so far there's nothing I don't like. Ursu has a cute way of describing things. I like all the characters and how they were written to fit the small town of Clarence. I love Bennie, who is a total Mama's boy and loves Sophie to death. I love Sophie, who sits in the bo
...more
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Anne Ursu's most recent book is BREADCRUMBS (HarperCollins/Walden Pond Press), a modern–day fairy tale for middle grade readers. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," BREADCRUMBS is a story of a Minneapolis girl who follows her best friend into a strange fairy-tale woods, and discovers there that fantasy is no escape.

Anne is also the author of the Cronus Chronicles (Atheneum), a
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