Wallflower in Bloom

By Claire Cook

(Touchstone, $24.99, 272 pages) 

Who is this author?

Full disclosure: I know Claire Cook well and have enjoyed her books – and her friendship – for years. She’s one of those writers whose dynamic personality is perfectly reflected in her novels, and when you read them, you will feel as though you know her personally too.

Cook, then living in Scituate, MA, and the mother of two, wrote her first novel in longhand on a legal pad in her minivan when she was 45, waiting for her daughter to take an early morning swim class. But it was her funny and charming second novel, “Must Love Dogs,” that really took off, and was made into a major motion picture starring Diane Lane and (yes, gasp, really!) John Cusack. My review of that book in the Courant was picked up by papers across the country, which Cook graciously insists helped it find an audience. I am not so sure about that….I think that novel, a quintessentially enjoyable beach book, would have found its audience all by itself.

Since then, Cook has written six more, all bestselling, delightful reads, and she also gives inspiring talks on how you can re-invent yourself. She now lives in Atlanta, but still spends time near Boston and visits the Cape. You can learn more about her at www.clairecook.com.

What is this book about?

It’s about a woman who dances her way out of a depressing situation and into a bright new life. Hard-working but underappreciated Deirdre is overshadowed by her brother, Tag, a New Age guru whom she works for, serving as a kind of gate-keeper to his high-profile, high-maintenance life. Deirdre describes him as “Deepak Chopra meets Bono,” and he is driving her nuts. Finally fed up with her overbearing bro-and-boss, she quits. Then Deirdre’s boyfriend dumps her for another woman, and even worse, after all his claims of never wanting kids, he is having one with his new love. What’s underemployed, underloved Deirdre to do? How about using her famous brother’s database to solicit votes to get her a spot as a non-celebrity contestant on “Dancing With the Stars?” Readers will be saying “You go, girl!” as Dierdre twirls her way into the kind of fun future she has always deserved.

Why you’ll like it:

Cook “gets” women and their often contradictory emotions and desires. She’s also particularly wise about prickly relationships among siblings who are old enough to know better and among parents and children who have to learn when to step in helpfully and when to let go. And she has no trouble calling a cad a cad, or creating appealing and decent guys who can help the heroine pick up the pieces – but not do it for her. There are plenty of sweet moments in her books, but Cook never is saccharine. Most important of all, she’s very funny, and every one of her books will trigger laugh-out-loud moments for their readers.

What others are saying:

“Claire Cook gives us a witty, down-to-earth and likable main character readers will root for. As Deirdre faces an almost insurmountable physical challenge, she also must confront family and self-acceptance issues. This is a delightfully quirky and off-kilter story that is the epitome of the perfect beach read (or for escaping into while snuggled in front of a roaring fireplace, or any other reading situation one can imagine). Cook has a true gift for writing humorous situations, as well as delving into emotionally affecting situations with a light touch, making “Wallflower in Bloom” a very enjoyable and satisfying read,” says www.bookreporter.com.

“Cook’s newest novel… is a fun and inspiring read. Family wallflower Deirdre Griffin has played second fiddle her entire life to her siblings…With Deirdre working as Tag’s personal assistant and gatekeeper, her status doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon, especially since Tag is on the cusp of becoming America’s “next big thing,” putting Deirdre in charge of managing his “brand” 24/7. During an event in Austin, Tex., the two have a heated exchange, and Deirdre impulsively quits, taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars, a move that might help her come out of both her shell and her brother’s shadow. 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,” says Publishers Weekly.

“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,” says Booklist.

When is it available?

“Wallflower in Bloom” is brightening the new books shelves at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and the Mark Twain branch.

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