Time Flies (Cook)

Time Flies
Clair Cook, 2013
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781451673678

Two best friends, a high school reunion, and a rollicking road trip down memory lane...

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—February 14, 1955
Where—Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Education—B.A., Syracuse University
Currently—Scituate, Massachusetts

Raised on Nancy Drew mysteries, Claire Cook has wanted to write ever since she was a little girl. She majored in theater and creative writing at Syracuse University and immersed herself in a number of artistic endeavors (copywriter, radio continuity director, garden designer, and dance and aerobics choreographer), yet somehow her dreams got pushed to the side for more real-life matters—like marriage, motherhood, and a teaching career. Decades passed, then one day she found herself parked in her minivan at 5 AM, waiting for her daughter to finish swim practice. She was struck with a now-or-never impulse and began writing on the spot. By the end of the season, she had a first draft. Her first novel, Ready to Fall, was published in 2000, when Cook was 45.

Since then, this "late starter" has more than made up for lost time. She struck gold with her second book, Must Love Dogs. Published in 2002, this story of a middle-aged divorcee whose singles ad produces hilariously unexpected results was declared "funny and pitch-perfect" by the Chicago Tribune and "a hoot" by the Boston Globe. (The novel got a second life in 2005 with the release of the feature film starring Diane Lane and John Cusack.) Cook's subsequent novels, with their wry, witty take on the lives of middle-aged women, have become bestsellers and book club favorites.

Upbeat, gregarious, and grateful for her success, Cook is an inspiration for aspiring writers and women in midlife transition. She tours indefatigably for her novels and genuinely enjoys speaking with fans. She also conducts frequent writing workshops, where she dispenses advice and encouragement in equal measure. "I'm extraordinarily lucky to spend my time doing what I love," she has said on countless occasions. " The workshops are a way to say thank you and open doors that I stumbled through to make it easier for writers coming up behind me.''

From a 2004 Barnes & Noble interview:

• I first knew I was a writer when I was three. My mother entered me in a contest to name the Fizzies whale, and I won in my age group. It's quite possible that mine was the only entry in my age group since "Cutie Fizz" was enough to win my family a six-month supply of Fizzies tablets (root beer was the best flavor) and half a dozen turquoise plastic mugs with removable handles. At six I had my first story on the "Little People's Page" in the Sunday paper (about Hot Dog, the family Dachshund) and at sixteen, I had my first front page feature in the local weekly.

• In the acknowledgments of Multiple Choice I say that even though it's probably undignified to admit it, I'm having a blast as a novelist. To clarify that, having a blast as a novelist does not necessarily mean having a blast with the actual writing. The people part—meeting readers and booksellers and librarians and the media—is very social and I'm having lots of fun with that. The writing part is great, too, once you get past the procrastination, the self-doubt, and the feelings of utter despair. It's all of the stuff surrounding the writing that's hard; once you find your zone, your place of flow, or whatever it is we're currently calling it, and lose yourself in the writing, it really is quite wonderful. I've heard writers say it's better than sex, though I'm not sure I'd go that far.

• I love books that don't wrap everything up too neatly at the end, and I think it's a big compliment to hear that a reader is left wanting more. After each novel, I hear from many readers asking for a sequel— they say they just have to find out what will happen to these people next. I think it's wonderful that the characters have come to life for them. But, for now, I think I'll grow more as a writer by trying to create another group of quirky characters. Maybe a few books down the road, I'll feel ready to return to some of them—who knows?

• When asked what book most influenced her life as a writer, here is what she said:

I get asked this question a lot on book tour, and I'm always tempted to say anything by Jane Austen or Alice Munro, just so people will know I'm well read, and sometimes I'm even tempted to say something by Gogol, just so people will think I'm really, really well read. But, alas, ultimately I tell the truth. The Nancy Drew books influenced me the most. I think they taught me a lot about pacing, and about ending chapters in such a way that the reader just can't put the book down and absolutely has to read on to the next chapter. I also think these books are responsible for the fact that I can't, for the life of me, write a chapter that's much longer than ten pages.

There's another variation of this question that I'm asked all the time on book tour: Who are your favorite authors? I always answer it the same way: My favorite authors are the ones who've been nice to me. It's so important for established authors to take emerging authors under their wings. Two who've been particularly generous to me as mentors and friends are Mameve Medwed and Jeanne Ray. Fortunately, they both happen to be very talented—and funny—so if you've somehow missed their books, you should read them immediately.

(Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)

Book Reviews
[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.
Bourne Journal

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.
New York Journal of Books

Full of engaging characters and humorous situations.... This lighthearted story will have readers plumbing its hidden depths and enjoying the ride.
Romance Reviews Today

[F]unny, bittersweet.... 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.... Meanwhile, her best friend, BJ, pesters her to return to Massachusetts for their high school reunion...Cook's strong characters and the sense of humor...[infuse] her latest heartwarming novel. —Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Brazoria Cty. Lib. System, TX
Library Journal

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.

The latest novel from Cook (Wallflower in Bloom, 2012, etc.). When Melanie's husband...leaves her for another woman, [her] artwork saves her sanity and attracts the attention of the charming restaurateur.... [H]er 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.... 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.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Time Flies begins with the sentence, “When my cell phone rang, I’d just finished cutting up my marriage mattress.” When her best friend B.J. asks narrator Melanie what’s up, she blows a sprinkling of sawdust off the phone and says, “Not much. Same old, same old.” How does this opening set you up for the rest of the book? What does it make you want to know?”

2. Melanie became a metal sculptor after moving to Atlanta. “Creativity had consoled me my whole life,” she says, “and conquering a new medium was something I could control. And if I was really, really honest, a part of the draw was that Kurt hated the idea.” Do you think this is part of the normal push and pull of a long-term marriage? Can you share any examples from your own life?

3. When Melanie’s highway driving phobia resurfaces, it takes her by surprise and throws her for a loop. What are you really, really, really afraid of? Can you imagine it ever crossing the line into a full-blown phobia? Why or why not?

4. Melanie and B.J.’s high school class reunion committee has decided they’re not going to mention either the year they graduated or how many years it’s been. They’re simply going to call it The Marshbury High School Best Class/Best Reunion Evah. How many years do you think it’s been? What are the clues?

5. Music plays a huge part in the stroll down memory lane for the characters in Time Flies. Do you think that’s true for everybody? What one song most reminds you of high school? Why?

6. Speaking of memories, Melanie’s son Troy accuses her of turning her memories of his childhood experiences into a Disney movie. What does he mean by that? Do you think all moms have that tendency?

7. Clearly, Melanie and Marion have some deep-seated sister issues. How do you see it? Who’s mostly at fault? Do you think it’s unusual to have a sibling that drives you crazy? Did you ever “borrow” anything from a sibling’s room when you were growing up? Did you get caught?

8. Throughout the book, Melanie and B.J. call each other Thelma, Louise, Romy and Michele. Why? Is there another movie that speaks to you about female friendship? Do you think in some ways Time Flies is a midlife takeoff on Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion? More baggage, more wrinkles, but the same need to impress?

9. When Melanie receives an email from Finn Miller, she jumps almost immediately into full retro crush mode. Why do you think it’s easier for her to do this than it is for her to deal with Ted Brody? What’s the lure of old high school crushes? Who’s yours?

10. What does finally getting a tattoo after all these years signify for B.J.? For Melanie? If your best friend talked you into getting one, what would it be? Real or temporary?

11. Why do you think Melanie and B.J. have stayed friends all these years? What do they do for each other? How would their relationship be different if they met as adults? Do you have high school friends still in your life? Why or why not?

12. Have you ever gone to a high school reunion? Will reading Time Flies make you more or less apt to go to your next one?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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