The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud – Ben Sherwood

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 277

Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Opening Line:

“Charlie St. Cloud wasn’t the best or brightest boy in Essex County, but he was surely the most promising.”

I have to admit that I only knew this book existed because of the film…BUT having read the book I think it offers a lot more than the film did, although I did think the film did the book justice. I do try and read a book before I watch the film, because inevitably my reading of a book will always be affected by what I see in my head when I read the words, and in this case I couldn’t help picturing the film. I already knew the story and how it all ends up, and despite enjoying the book in the end, I know that the experience would have been a better one if I’d have gone into this book not knowing a single thing about it.

One thing the book did give me that the film didn’t was a greater understanding of the story itself. It explores, love and loss, life and death, how far a person will go for love, and ultimately, when is it right to let go of one love and let yourself free to have another? This is something I feel I can relate to: You can become obsessed by trying to do the best for others without considering what is best for you, and that is a lesson that the main character Charlie had to learn and come to terms with, even though it hurt him to.

As well as all that, the book contemplates the afterlife. This is a subject I’m writing about a story of my own, but I’ve taken a completely different path to the way the afterlife is imagined in this story. The book makes you wonder what does happen when you die, and after reading it I hoped that it would be something like what Ben Sherwood has imagined. It offers hope and to some extent beauty to the subject of dying – to know that the person you love still has a connection with the world until it is their time to go, to pass over to the next ‘life’. It is hard to imagine nothingness, and there’s a thought I have about the moment we die and what nothingness is really like, but of course if there is nothing then we won’t know about it or experience it. This book provides the characters, living and dead, with something and somewhere. 

Charlie as a main character is charming and very likeable. I wanted to take his inner turmoil away from him and give him the happiness that he deserved. The loss of his brother, and the fact that he almost died has affected him ever since, but it’s only when he realises that he was given a second chance at life that he figures out he needs to let his brother go and move on from the past in order to have a better future. There are some beautiful elements to this story, and for someone who has neither read the book or seen the film, I would say definitely read the book first, enjoy it, consume it, and then treat yourself to the film.

Quotes at the beginning of the book:

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” – Thornton Wilder

Quotes I liked from the book:

“Notice all the little things, because somebody is reaching out to you. Qualcuno tiama. Somebody loves you.”

“We all shine on in the moon and the stars and the sun.”

“Thank you for the gift of breath.

For the gift of life.

For the gift of every moment…”

Link to the book on Goodreads:

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud 

Link to the film on IMDB:

Charlie St. Cloud

© advocateofbooks

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