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How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  392 ratings  ·  96 reviews
From the author of Before Women Had Wings comes this story of a woman in her mid-thirties who ultimately transcends the quagmire of her middle-aged existence and leaves her husband.
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published April 2nd 2010 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.43  · 
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Sep 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
I should never read a novel that is described as "empowering." And I know better than to read chick lit. But I honestly thought this book sounded like it would defy the conventions of that cliched genre - set in North Florida, quirky Cracker characters, ghosts with a story to tell, dysfunctional family life, even a dwarf circus. Sadly, no. All those aspects that drew me to this book, and which were highlighted on the misleading jacket description, turned out to be a very small part of the ...more
✨ Gramy ✨
This book was difficult to get into because the author wandered all over the place during the first half. It is clear that she was in an abusive relationship, but I could not identify with her inept ability to have control over any part of her personal life, even though she was suppose to be an accomplished author and gardener. She did demonstrate empathy for the ghosts revealed in and around her home. There were no chapters to break up the sequences. My observation is that readers either love ...more
Feb 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
It is rare that I cannot finish a book. I can find something redeeming in nearly any book, so I just keep plowing through. This book? I actually snapped it closed and gave it away (with a warning about my inability to finish it). I couldn't connect with a single character, and I'm still not sure what the book was actually about.
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clarissa Burden is aptly named. She is struggling and feeling helpless to control her life. One blistering hot Florida day she starts to encounter ghosts and strange things begin to happen which help her find her way. The writing is very creative (Clarrisa refers to what most of us call our inner voice as her Ovarian Shadow Women!) I felt some questions were left unanswered - what was the origin of the hidden women's and children's cemetary? Overall an enjoyable read.
Barbara Nutting
Jul 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Can't believe this is the same author who wrote Remembering Blue? I made it to page 53 and gave up - I'm not into ghosts!! Maybe our awful Florida heat fried Connie May Fowler's brain along with eggs on the asphalt!!
May 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Let me say first of all that this was a good read, full of the details that make Southern gothic novels so enjoyable. I was delighted by Fowler's strong narrative voice, and lush descriptions of the Florida landscape. I even enjoyed the ghosts that populated the story- in many ways, their stories seemed much more compelling than Clarissa's ever could.

For me, the difficulty with this novel lay in Clarissa herself, and her enthroned status as a complete doormat. This woman is a successful novelist
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Either I'm too stressed out to appreciate deep symbolism, etc. or I've been picking a series of losers. Ugh, you'd think with a title like "How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly" a person could expect some nice fluffy chick lit, which is exactly what a person can manage these days. Instead we get a neurotic woman with writer's block, married to a prime number one selfish jerk, surrounded by ghosts of murdered women and children, in 102 degree Florida heat and stank, for all love. I didn't really ...more
Nov 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book, I think I read the first page three or four times. But there was a quality to the main character that I liked, she had unique observations, so I continued. And then I found a marvel--a fantastically written and slightly oblique novel about a woman with writer's block who is haunted by every ghost in the county. The entire book is set on one day and what a day it is. It's a novel about loving yourself and embracing your creativity, about ...more
Jun 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Read on my trip south for book club which I probably won't even be back in Michigan in time for. (Well that's a convoluted sentence!) I really enjoyed it, the story of a writer/wife who lets her nonworking-sponging-off-of-her husband control her, and how she gets her mojo back.

8/19: Apparently I read, and liked this one in 2010!
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed it - not too heavy, pleasant summer reading but definitely not total fluff. Made me want to live in the subtropics.
Susan Coleman
Mar 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned-ugh
Gave up on this one on page 30, largely because of sentences like, "Wow, he'd called her baby. And darling. And cutie-pie. She knew the terms of endearment were a manifestation of Adam's machismo and were not personal. Still, she couldn't help but smile head to toe. Sometimes, she thought, rising to her feet, a girl just needed to feel appreciated." Ugh.
Christine (booktumbling)
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Successful writer Clarissa Burden may live in Hope, FL but hope is not necessarily a word in her vocabulary when referring to her own life. She is experiencing writer's block, her husband. Iggy, mostly ignores her (as he paints naked "models" in the backyard) unless he is acknowledging her presence with complete disdain, her new house is beautiful but possibly haunted, she has an obsessed fly that is stalking her, her only mode of transportation is full of six months of trash, and there is a ...more
Jennifer Defoy
This book left me feeling so empowered. I felt like I was Clarissa Burden at points. I didn't have the same pressures she had growing up, and as far as I know my boyfriend hasn't started photographing models in the nude in our backyard (although he has grown awfully fond of our new Mustang...LOL) but I have the same self-doubt about myself.

I love how everything in this book has a perspective on what is going on. From the fly in the beginning to the armadillo and rats in the end their actions
Mar 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Connie May Fowler writes hard truths in beautifully gritty prose. The beauty lies in the beautifully crafted wording which paints a vivid picture. At the same time, the story propels the main character through a hard life - sometimes horrifically so - to a place where the reader knows that life will be better. How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly is no different.

The first few pages of the book made me a little edgy. Clarissa Burden has a bad case of writer's block. Her distant and somewhat
Joan Hanna
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Although it takes a chapter or two to fall into the rhythm of this book, once the reader does, Clarissas world opens up to us in an extraordinary way. Fowler brings to light not only the unspeakable beauty but also the devastating and sometimes cruel world in which we live. Clarissa both entertains and chills us with her spousal death sequences. We learn about the ghost women and children of Poor Spot Cemetery. We also learn the history and why the ghost family haunts her home. Fowler takes us ...more
Apr 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
From My Blog...[return]How Clarissa Burden Learned To Fly by Connie May Fowler is an intriguing, witty, and at times depressing look into a 24-hour period that altered the life of 35-year-old Clarissa Burden. On the warmest summer solstice recorded in Hope, Florida, Clarissa discovers she is procrastinating, she is supposed to be working on her novel, instead she is doing everything but writing when it dawned on her that she spent a great deal of time contemplating the death of her husband Iggy. ...more
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
I admit that when I read about Clarisse Burden in her large, well cared for and beautifully proportioned house with a husband frolicking with nude models in the garden, I didn't sympathize with Clarisse. I kept wanting her to get angry and kick the deadbeat out of her house!

But as Clarisse's personal history, wit and personality unfolded, I slowly sympathized and could understand why she didn't call her husband on his ludicrous behavior. Albeit, I kept hoping that she would. Getting to know
Jeanine Halada
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books

I read Clarissa this weekend--and I loved it, related to it, rooted for her, and learned to fly a little higher myself. It brought back memories of a less sure self--and the journey and the trials and the MISTAKES necessary to come through to the other side. I guess we all have to learn to fly--and for some of us--we need to experience that complete and total "fowking idiot" to accomplish this feat--great novel--and to think it all occurs over twenty-four hours--love Olga, Amaziah and
Freda Mans-Labianca
Apr 16, 2010 rated it liked it
I have so many emotions after finishing the book, that I think I liked it, but really don't know where I stand.
Clarissa Burden is a character I relate to all too well. I was in an abusive relationship once, and it tore my world apart. Reading the emotional sacrifice she made by being with her husband, hit home with me.
Her husband is one of those characters you hate from the start. He is so awful, the other characters in the book hate him.
The story the author told was one that should be told,
Mar 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adult women
Clarissa Burden is a character you can't help but love She's an amazing woman, but sadly, she doesn't realize how special she really is. As Clarissa makes critical decisions and grows, one cannot help but cheer her on. She is a character that will stay with the reader long after the story has been finished.

This novel has an incredible and empowering message. It tells how easy it is to slide into a life we would never chose, but when it happens slowly, we don't realize it until it's too late.
Lori Paximadis
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I loved this. It's quirky and emotional and a bit mystical. There are passages written from the perspective of a literal fly on the wall. A one-armed provisional angel with ant-infested dreadlocks. Dwarves. Lifesaving ghosts. Worm grunting. Revenge fantasies.

While there are lots of ways Clarissa and I are quite different, I can relate to her in others (e.g., that terrifying intersection of raging anger and fear of change and hope and the waffling and missteps that occur there; the [in my
Jul 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I liked this book, but it started out very slowly. Clarissa burden lives in Florida with her husband, Iggy. She is a novelist who is currently suffering from writers block. She lives in a historic house with some unsettled ghosts who are stuck on earth until they can get to heaven. She is unsatisfied with her life, her marriage and her writing career. Her husband, an expatriate South African artist, pays no attention to her. He is busy cavorting with nude models in the backyard, claiming it is ...more
Page 63-end. Wow. This book is one bumpy ride as it jogs from genre to genre. But why should an author to have stick to one genre? Maybe because if she doesn't she end up with a mess like this.
during her jump around, there were pages that I actually liked, but those pages needed to be in a different (better) book.

Pages 1-62. Hard going; horrible primary character. I hate books without chapters. Very jumbled, chaotic; I guess it is supposed to be funny. Was relieved with the introduction of
Mar 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Clarissa, at first annoyed me by putting up with being treated like a child and letting her husband just walk all over her. As the book progressed, my opinion of her changed. It was a real treat to watch her grow as a person. Learn to stand up for herself a bit, learn to take action. She also has a great imagination. I loved all the scenarios towards her husband she came up with. Her overactive imagination was incredibly entertaining.

The town of Hope, Florida is wonderful. Such small town charm
Amanda Skinner
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
WOW!! I am so happy to have received this giveaway!

I loved this book. Clarissa is a bit of an Everywoman, and an inspiring one at that.

The way Connie May Fowler spins a yarn is so very refreshing. She has a rare talent! I could smell the flowers in Clarissa's garden, and see Clarissa's prized home in vivid detail. I could even feel the heat of a florida summer solstice! I loved the way she zipped in and out of points of view. I really enjoyed hearing the thoughts of a love sick fly, and knowing
Apr 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It is an understatement to see that Clarissa has some negativity going on in her life. Her husband is jealous of her writing success. Her husband never amounted to much but to hear him talk, you would think she was the failure. Going from one bad situation to another, Clarissa begins to wonder why she has let herself get into such a funk. A change needs to be made and it all happens in the span of 24 hours.

This is one of those books that really captivates you and you can't help but feel changed
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it

This is a wonderful book that takes you through a day with Clarissa Burden and how just 24 hours can in fact change your life. That and the help of a ghost. There is a lot of drama packed into this novel. This would make an excellent novel for a book group since there are so many things to discuss about the characters and there is enough to love and hate about the story (always a good idea for active discussions). I am not a reader who enjoys a lot of descriptions, but Fowler does a great job of
Jun 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Andrea by: library new book shelf
I should have followed my first instinct and given up on this one 10 pages into it. But then I read the reviews here and thought maybe it would improve. Which it did, for a bit, until a really unbelievably ridiculously stupid ending. For all the random themes packed into it - ghosts, slavery, adultery, child abuse, muscle cars, circus dwarves, writer's block and self-discovery, to name just a few - this book had nothing new or interesting to say. And why the obsession with insects? And did I ...more
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Connie May Fowler did it to me again! Even though I liked Before Women Had Wings, I started this book thinking 1) this is probably chick lit, of which I'm not a fan and 2) I need something I'm not going to get into so much that I can't stop reading -- but I loved this book and got so caught up in her story that I stayed up late to finish reading it. Guess I'll have to add the rest of her books to my list.
Melissa at My Chaotic Ramblings
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010-reads
At first I was a little miffed that there weren't any "real" chapters, but once I noticed how well the flow went with Clarissa's day I relaxed and enjoyed the book.
I felt myself grow just a little right along with Clarissa. I disliked "Iggy" from the get go, and was fantasizing his death right along with Clarissa.

I laughed and cried throughout most of the book and my heart stopped a few times. Overall I will have to keep this one on the shelf to come back to time and again.

~I was provided a
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