Author: Jennifer Paddock
Published By: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Point Clear by Jennifer Paddock centers around Caroline Berry, a woman who has lost herself to a mundane existence with little direction. Caroline had come to New York City from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in dreams of becoming a writer. Years later, she finds that her dreams have been set aside. She now works at two rather unsatisfying jobs and suffers from an ever-intensifying case of vertigo. When Caroline earns a substantial inheritance from her grandfather, she decides to make some changes in her life. She makes a three-week reservation to stay at an old southern hotel in Point Clear, Alabama, an old family favorite. In taking this trip, Caroline hopes to find some sense of direction for her life…a way to somehow get her life back on track.
In a case of pure Caroline Berry luck, she arrives just a day before Hurricane Ivan is due to strike Point Clear. In a very uncharacteristic move, Caroline decides to stay at the hotel. Completely disregarding the evacuation order, she finds a way to hide in the hotel and ride out the hurricane alone. In Hurricane Ivan’s aftermath, she meets a man out on the nearby beach, preparing to go for a swim. Shortly afterward, champion swimmer Walker Galloway is reported missing. Caroline recognizes him as the man she met on the beach after the hurricane. Realizing that she is probably the last person to have seen him, she quickly contacts the local police.
Her involvement in the search for the missing swimming pro brings her into contact with his friends and family and gradually becomes a turning point in her own life, inspiring her to seek out truths in her past and move forward toward a more hopeful future. In the disappearance of Walker Galloway, Caroline Berry comes closer and closer to finding what she has lost – herself.
In reading this novel, one senses that the author, Jennifer Paddock, has much in common with Caroline Berry. In reading the Author Q & A provided at the end of the book, Paddock confirms this. She reveals that she, too, loves the “art” of tennis and actually played on a team at the University of Tulsa (Caroline’s town of origin). Like her main character, Jennifer Paddock also moved to New York City to study creative writing at NYU and both suffer from vertigo. The similarities don’t end there. Both have fathers who died suddenly, an event that we discover has served to shape Caroline’s life. This knowledge brings the reader to wonder whether the author herself has embarked on a soul-seeking journey; a journey to get her life back on track.
Point Clear is a very fast and easy to comprehend read. I found it amusing to read the different versions of the first chapter of Caroline’s novel as the story and the character’s growth progressed. The novel is a tale of self-discovery and romance – the kind that isn’t just about falling in love with someone, but about falling in love with a place…with a notion. In fact, it would appear that the main character is a woman perpetually falling in love with everything that is new to her. Her passion for new experiences and the emotions they evoke is explored in intricate detail in this book. That being said, I was surprised to find the one actual love scene between Caroline and another character in the novel to be short and rather non-descript.
Point Clear provides for an enjoyable read, although there were some parts that were just a tad too fantastic, such as Caroline’s meeting with Anderson Cooper. One gets the distinct impression that this might actually be the author’s dream for herself, brought to life through her main character. That Caroline also gets to see Al Roker, who also happens to be reporting about the hurricane on the scene at Point Clear, Alabama, seems to be a bit far-fetched. I was also amazed at just how many “stars” the main character met while staying at this old southern hotel on Mobile Bay.
Besides the celebrity-siting and, at times, elbow-brushing, the rest of the novel was believable. I congratulate the author on her extensive research of hurricanes, swimming and tennis techniques. Often times, an author doesn’t do their homework and becomes a disappointment in the eyes of a reader who happens to discover blatant mistakes in facts and continuity.
Noting that this is only the second novel the author has published, I can almost overlook another issue I had with Point Clear…almost. The rampant use of the words “he said” and “she said” and repetition of actions began to grow annoying toward the end of the novel. Dialogue should not be outlined with a continuous monotony of “he said”/”she said”. There are times when these particular words never have to come into play. Just by describing the character’s actions during or after making a particular statement is enough to let the reader know who was speaking at the time. Repetition often turns a reader off to the writing, causing the mind to wander. Something new, something different – that’s what holds the reader’s attention.
I will, however, say that the ending was totally unexpected. I remember thinking, “What if…?” but felt that the story was probably taking an entirely different direction. Thus, I dismissed the “What if” only to read the ending and discover that I should have stuck with my idea. The ending was written in such a way as to fit completely with the rest of the story, so much so that I could smack myself in the head for not believing that it was coming.
Point Clear by Jennifer Paddock is an interesting read, but not so interesting that I would recommend everyone rush out and buy it. In my opinion, this is a book you will read through quickly. Afterwards, you’ll feel like something was missing, but you probably won’t bother to reread it in search of the missing element. In fact, you’ll probably move on and forget all about it.