The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud: A Novel by Ben SherwoodThe Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud: A Novel by Ben Sherwood

The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud: A Novel

byBen Sherwood

Paperback | March 1, 2005

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The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud tells the haunting story of a young man who narrowly survives a terrible car wreck that kills his little brother. Years later, the brothers’ bond remains so strong that it transcends the normal boundaries separating life and death. Charlie St. Cloud lives in a snug New England fishing village. By day he tends the lawns and monuments of the ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. Graced with an extraordinary gift after surviving the accident, he can still see, talk, and even play catch with Sam’s spirit. But townsfolk whisper that Charlie has never recovered from his loss.

Into his carefully ordered life comes Tess Carroll, a captivating, adventuresome woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that blows her back to harbor, to a charged encounter with Charlie, and to a surprise more overwhelming than the violent sea itself. Charlie and Tess discover a beautiful and uncommon connection that leads to a race against time and a desperate choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go.

Luminous, soulful, and filled with unforgettable characters, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is one of those rare, wise books that reveal the mysteries of the unseen world around us, gently transforming the worst pain of loss into hope, healing, and even laughter. Suspenseful and deeply moving, its startling climax reminds us that sometimes tragedies can bring about miracles if we simply open our hearts.


From the Hardcover edition.
Ben Sherwood is the author of The Man Who Ate the 747, a national bestseller that has been translated into thirteen languages. He was an award-winning journalist with NBC and ABC News, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, he lives with his wife...
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Title:The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8.2 × 5.48 × 0.68 inPublished:March 1, 2005Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553383256

ISBN - 13:9780553383256

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from sad and moving Loved this book, filled with love and life lessons. Its an easy read and couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing Story I really enjoyed this book. Makes you look back on what is important in life and what you value.
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud After watching the movie Charlie St. Cloud I decided to read the book it was based on. The last time I was disappointed but not this time. As I read I saw the differences and though they did a good job. The book was more insightful and gave you a better understanding of how the characters were feeling. I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2015-04-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sweet Story I started this book one night after having a copy of it on my Kobo for a while and having just watched the movie. Normally I try to read the book first and wind up ruining the movie for myself so I went into this trying not to be to married to the movie version (which I loved) I was quite pleasantly surprised. The story is nice and sweet, I feel like this would be a good beach read. It's very Sparks-esque (which I don't really like to say but considering that I love Nicholas Sparks thats a compliment) This book was a lot less religious than I expected it to be which was a very pleasant surprise in my opinion. If you're looking for a nice pleasant fluffy read then this may just be the story for you.
Date published: 2012-03-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from MOVING, MAGICAL AND HAUNTING-a great story I read this a few years ago but after recently seeing the movie I was reminded of how much I'd liked this story and decided to revisit Charlie St Cloud and his little brother Sam. So even though I knew the big reveal this time through I was still able to immerse myself completely in this magical, moving journey from death back to life. With a story and writing style reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks this is an easy, beautiful and somewhat tear-jerking read that I would recommend to fans of his. There is of course a touching love story here but to me this was more about brothers, letting go of the past and embracing life. Sherwood manages to also bring the seaside town of Marblehead Massachusetts to life with quaint and intriguing secondary characters and a unique yachting theme. There were times here when I could actually smell the sea breeze, feel the salt spray on my face and really see his descriptions of clouds and setting suns. So much so that despite the movie being filmed some 50 miles from my (Canadian) back yard I still had the urge to visit New England. I think what I liked most here though was Sherwood's comforting take on the afterlife; giving us all hope that our departed are with us, all around us and waiting for us. As a teenager Charlie St. Cloud died in a car accident, brought back after a few minutes by the paramedics his younger brother Sam wasn't to be so lucky. During those brief moments before Charlie was returned to life he made a promise to his brother that he would never leave him, and he never has. Now 13 years later Charlie is working in a cemetery, he's still full of guilt over the accident however by some twist of fate he can now see the dead walking amongst the tombstones and every night at sunset he meets Sam in a secret grove where they play baseball together in a Field Of Dreams sort of way. Charlie's never missed a single sunset with the fear that his brother will fade away if he does, in this way though neither of them has been able to move on. The cemetery almost becomes a character of its own here, no longer feeling like a creepy, sad place but one of magic and adventure. Tess Carol is about to embark on a solo sailing trip around the world so meeting someone like Charlie is definitely not in her plans. Yet despite his odd habit of disappearing at sunset she can't help but fall in love, these days he seems to be the only one who really "sees" her. When Tess's boat is lost in a storm Charlie is faced with the ultimate choice between death and life. In joining the search party he chooses love and a future full of possibilities yet in doing so he'll also break his promise and risk losing his brother forever.
Date published: 2011-06-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A sweet love story with a twist When Charlie St. Cloud was 15, he 'borrowed' a car to take his 12 year old brother Sam to a baseball game and instead had a deadly accident. Charlie barely survived and his brother did not but Charlie promised him he would never leave him. Now 28, Charlie is the caretaker of the cemetery where Sam is buried and every evening at dusk throws balls with Sam. Yes, the dead brother. Tess is planning a world-wide solo sailing adventure when she meets Charlie. Over time there develops a beautiful relationship. But Charlie eventually has to decide between his brother and Tess and even life and death. This book is a sweet love story with a twist.
Date published: 2011-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lovely story! I wasn`t sure what to expect from this book - but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a quick read with characters that easily draw you into their world and their story. I found myself wanting to go back to the book several times in the day to learn what the next steps for these characters would be. The idea of the story was very creative and I loved the Charlie character. He is endearing and you cannot help but feel for him. I loved Tess' strength throughout the story. The ending came too quickly and I was hoping for more closure - but it did not detract from the story. I would recommend this book as an easy and enjoyable summer read!
Date published: 2010-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Beautful Book. I really enjoyed this book- it was an easy read and a real tear jerker! I had seen the trailer for the movie and I started to cry while watching it & I wanted to read the book before the movie was released. Would definitely recommend.
Date published: 2010-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An eternal romance! This is definatly a wonderful romantic story which deals with bitter tragedy and its aftermath. The story is very character driven and is full of twists and turns. Greatly written and perfectly plotted, this story of Charlie St. Cloud is truely worth the read.
Date published: 2010-06-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book This was a great book. It is very well written. It isn't a very hard read. I liked it so much I finished it one day because I just couldn't put it down. It is also being turned into a movie so read the book first and then go see how the movie compares.
Date published: 2009-09-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from becoming a movie I read that Zac Efron is gonna be in this movie. I cant wait.
Date published: 2009-04-03

Read from the Book

ONECHARLIE ST. CLOUD WASN'T THE BEST OR BRIGHTEST BOY in Essex County, but he was surely the most promising. He was junior-class vice president, shortstop of the Marblehead Magicians, and co-captain of the debate club. With a mischievous dimple on one cheek, nose and forehead freckled from the sun, and caramel eyes hidden beneath a flop of sandy-blond hair, he was already handsome at fifteen. He was a friend to jocks and geeks and even had a girlfriend one year older at school. Yes, Charlie St. Cloud was a blessed boy, quick of mind and body, destined for good things, perhaps even a scholarship at Dartmouth, Princeton, or one of those Ivied places.His mother, Louise, cheered his every achievement. Indeed, Charlie was both cause and cure for her own life's disappointments. Those troubles had begun the very moment he was conceived, an unwanted pregnancy that pushed the man she loved--a carpenter with good hands--right out the door. Next came Charlie's obstructed journey into the world, catching somewhere deep inside and requiring bloody surgery to be born. Soon a second son arrived from another vanished father, and the years blurred into one endless struggle. But for all her woes, Charlie erased her pain with those twinkling eyes and optimism. She had grown to depend on him as her angel, her messenger of hope, and he could do no wrong.He grew up fast, worked hard at his books, watched out for his mom, and loved his kid brother more than anyone in the world. His name was Sam, and his father--a bail bondsman--was gone, too, barely leaving a trace except for his son's curly brown hair and some bluish bruises on Louise's face. Charlie believed he was the only true protector of his little brother, and someday, together, he knew they would make something of themselves in the world. The boys were three years apart, opposites in coloring and throwing arms, but best friends, united in their love of catching fish, climbing trees, a beagle named Oscar, and the Red Sox.Then one day, Charlie made a disastrous decision, a mistake the police could not explain and the juvenile court did its best to overlook.To be precise, Charlie ruined everything on Friday, September 20, 1991.Mom was working the late shift at Penni's market on Washington Street. The boys had come home from school with mischief on their minds. They had no homework to do until Sunday night. They had already gone spying on the Flynn twins down the block. They had jumped a fence and snuck onto the property of the Czech refugee who claimed to have invented the bazooka. At sunset, they had played catch under the pine trees in their yard on Cloutman's Lane, just as they had done every night since Charlie had given Sam his first Rawlings glove for his seventh birthday. But now it was dark, and they had run out of adventures.Sam might have settled for crashing and watching Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" video on MTV, but Charlie had a surprise. He wanted action and had just the plan."How 'bout night fishing on Devereux Beach?" he asked Sam, setting his brother up perfectly."Boring," Sam said. "We always do that. How 'bout a movie? Terminator 2's playing at the Warwick. Nick Burridge will sneak us in the back.""I've got a better idea.""It's R-rated. What's better than that?"Charlie pulled out two tickets from the pocket of his jeans jacket. Red Sox tickets. They were playing the Yankees. Boston was on a roll, and the evil Bronx Bombers had lost eleven of their last thirteen."No way! Where'd those come from?" Sam asked."I have my ways.""How we gonna get there? Fly?""Don't you worry about that. Mrs. Pung is on vacation. We can borrow her wagon.""Borrow? You don't even have a license!""You want to go or not?""What about Mom?""Don't worry. She'll never know.""We can't leave Oscar. He'll freak out and mess up the house.""He can come too."Sure enough, Charlie, Sam, and their beagle were soon driving to Boston in Mrs. Pung's Country Squire. Without their neighbor Mrs. Pung, that is. The police report would make considerable mention of two unlicensed minors, a dog, and a white stolen vehicle with red interior. But Mrs. Pung dropped the auto-theft charges when she got back from Naples, Florida. They were good kids, she said. They only borrowed the car. They made a terrible mistake. They more than paid the price.The drive took thirty minutes, and Charlie was especially careful on Route 1A where the Swampscott and Lynn cops patrolled. The boys listened to the pregame show on WRKO, talked about the last time they'd been to the ballpark, and counted their money, calculating they had enough for two Fenway Franks each, a Coke, and peanuts."This is our year," Sam said. "The Sox'll win the Series.""They just have to break the Curse of the Bambino," Charlie said. It was the superstition of every red-blooded Boston fan: Trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees had put a hex on the Sox."You don't believe in that stuff, do you?""Think about it. The Sox haven't won the Series since 1918. The Yanks have done it twenty-two times. You do the math.""C'mon, the Babe didn't make Bill Buckner boot that ground ball in '86." Buckner was the reviled first baseman who let an easy dribbler through his legs in the World Series, costing the Sox game six and, many swore, the championship."How do you know?""He just didn't.""Well, I think he did.""Did not.""Did too."A standoff."Draw?" Sam said reluctantly."Okay, draw."And with that, the argument was done but not over. A draw was their way of stopping a dispute that would have gone on all night. It would be dutifully recorded in Charlie & Sam's Book of Big & Small Arguments. And after the proper procedural motions, it could be started up again at any point. Ignoring their age difference, Sam threw himself into these arguments with passion, and the two brothers often spent hours in the Abbot public library on Pleasant Street gathering ammunition for their battles.Now, with its red bricks and shimmering glass, Boston was waiting across the Charles River. They turned down Brookline Avenue and could see the hazy lights of the stadium. Biting at the chilly air, Oscar leaned out the window. With his red and white coat, he was the perfect mascot for the adventure.In the parking lot, the boys stuffed their beagle into a backpack and took off for the bleachers. As they reached their seats a thundering cheer rose for Roger Clemens, #21, throwing his first rocket. The boys laughingly bowed left and right to acknowledge the crowd. A stadium guard would later testify he saw the two unaccompanied youths, wearing caps and carrying mitts, but did not stop or question them.Their seats were in right field, directly behind a guy who must have been seven feet tall, but it didn't matter. It could have poured, it could have snowed. Nothing could ruin the spectacle of the Green Monster in left field, the grass, the chalk lines, and the infield dirt. They were right near Pesky's pole, just 302 feet from home plate, easy distance for catching a home run.One of their heroes, Wade Boggs, sat out the game with a sore right shoulder, but Jody Reed took his place and delivered, with a run-scoring double and homer off the left-field foul pole. The boys ate two hot dogs each with extra relish. Oscar got some Cracker Jacks from a woman in the next row. A big bearded guy next to her gave them a few sips of Budweiser. Charlie was careful not to drink too much. Still, the police report would mention traces of alcohol in their blood. There was enough to raise questions, but not enough for answers.Clemens shut out the Yankees, allowing only three hits and striking out seven. The crowd cheered, and Oscar howled. With the final out and a 2-0 victory in the books, the fans scattered but the boys stayed in their seats, replaying the highlights. The team was now miraculously within striking distance of Toronto. Instead of falling apart in September, always the cruelest month, the Sox were surging."Someday, we'll have season tickets," Charlie said. "Right there behind home plate in the first row.""The bleachers are good enough for me," Sam said, eating the last of the peanuts. "I don't care about the seats. As long as it's you and me, that's what makes baseball great.""We'll always play ball, Sam. No matter what."The stadium lights began shutting down. The ground crew had just about spread the tarp over the infield."We better go," Charlie said.The boys headed for the parking lot, where the white station wagon was all alone. The drive home was much faster. Springsteen was born to run on the radio. There was hardly any traffic. The trip would take half an hour. They would be home by 10:30. Mom wouldn't be back until midnight. Mrs. Pung in Florida would never know.Just past the Wonderland Greyhound Park, Sam pulled a cassette from his pocket and stuck it in the radio. It was U2's The Joshua Tree. Charlie sang along to "With or Without You.""Bono rocks," Sam said."The Boss.""Bono.""The Boss.""Draw?""Draw."They drove silently for a while, then Sam asked out of the blue, "How long will it be until I'm grown up?""You already are," Charlie answered."I'm serious. When do I stop being a kid?""Officially," Charlie said, "when you're twelve, you're a man and you can do what you want.""Says who?""Says me.""I'm a man and I can do what I want," Sam said, enjoying the sound of it. A great moon floated on the Saugus River, and he rolled down the window. "Look," he said. "It's bigger tonight. Must be closer to us.""Nah," Charlie said. "It's always the same distance. That's just an optical illusion.""What's that?""When your eye plays tricks on you.""What kind of trick?""Wherever it is in the sky," Charlie said, "it's always 225,745 miles away." He did the math. Numbers were easy for him. "At our speed right now, it would take about 170 days to get there.""Mom wouldn't be too crazy about that," Sam said."And Mrs. Pung wouldn't be happy about the mileage."The boys laughed. Then Sam said, "It's no optical delusion. It's closer tonight. I swear. Look, you can see a halo just like an angel's.""No such thing," Charlie said. "That's a refraction of the ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.""Gee, I thought it was a refraction of the ice crystals on your butt!" Sam howled with laughter, and Oscar barked in a series of sharp, distinctive woofs.Charlie checked his mirrors, aimed the car straight ahead, and took one quick glance to the right. The moon was flickering between the iron railings of the drawbridge, keeping pace with them as they sped home. It sure seemed closer than ever tonight. He turned his head for a better look. He thought the bridge was empty so he pushed down on the gas.Of all his reckless decisions that night, surely this was the worst. Charlie raced the moon, and in the final second before the end, he saw the perfect image of happiness. Sam's innocent face looking up at him. The curl dangling over his forehead. The Rawlings glove on his hand. And then there was only fracturing glass, metal, and blackness.TWOWITH A COLD WIND RUSHING THROUGH THE SPANS IN THE General Edwards bridge, Florio Ferrente snatched the jaws of life from the back of his rig. The serrated blades weighed forty-one pounds and could chop through steel, but he wielded them like kitchen scissors in his hulking hands.Florio kneeled for a moment and offered the fireman's prayer that came to his lips every time he went to work.Give me courage.Give me strength.Please, Lord, through it all, be at my side.Then came the blur of action. One thousand--one million--calculations and considerations. All instantaneous. He evaluated the spilled gasoline and the chance of a spark or explosion. He assessed the fastest way into the wreck--through the windshield, hood, or doors? And he did the math on how much time he had for this rescue. Time, precious time.Florio ran past the jagged skid marks and jackknifed tractor trailer. He didn't bother to stop for the truck driver leaning against the center divider. The man's head was in his hands. He reeked of beer and blood. It was one of the rules of rescue: Heaven protects fools and drunks. The guy would be fine.The instant license-plate check on the white wagon had produced the first bit of information. The Ford belonged to Mrs. Norman Pung of Cloutman's Lane, Marblehead. Age: 73. Vision-impaired. Perhaps the first clue.The vehicle was crunched and tossed upside down, like a cockroach, its front end smashed into the railing of the bridge. He could tell from the trail of glass and metal that the car had rolled at least twice. Florio dropped to the pavement and peered through a squashed window.There was no noise inside. No sound of breathing or moaning. Blood trickled through cracks in the metal.With swift movements, he jammed a power spreader into the narrow space between the hood and door. A quick flick of his thumb and the hydraulics surged. The car frame groaned as the machine drove the metal apart, clearing a narrow crawl space. Florio pushed his head inside the wreck and saw two boys, upside down, unconscious, tangled in seat belts. Their twisted arms were wrapped around each other in a bloody embrace. No sign of Mrs. Pung."Two traumatic arrests up front," he shouted to his partner, Trish Harrington. "A dog in back. Scoop and run. Priority One."He slid out of the wreckage and shoved the Hurst tool into the hinges of the door. Another jab of the thumb, and the blades took two powerful bites. Florio pulled the door right off and threw it across the pavement."Gimme two C-spine collars," he yelled. "And two short backboards."He crawled back inside. "Can you hear me?" he said to the smaller boy. "Talk to me." No response. No movement. The kid's face and neck were wet with blood, eyes and lips swollen.It was another rule of rescue: If the child is quiet, be scared.Florio wrapped a brace around the boy's neck, strapped on a backboard, then cut the seat belt with his knife. He lowered the patient gently and pulled him out onto the pavement. He was slight, around eighty pounds, and, incredibly, was still wearing a Rawlings baseball glove on one hand."Pupils are blown," Florio said, checking with his flashlight. "He's posturing. Blood from the ears." Bad signs, all. Time to go after the other victim. He climbed back inside. The teenager was pinned beneath the steering column. Florio wedged another spreader into the foot space and hit the hydraulics. As the metal separated, he could see one open fracture of the femur. And he smelled the awful brew of radiator fluid and blood.From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

US1. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud opens with fireman Florio Ferrente’s recounting of several lifesaving miracles. What role does Florio believe Divine intervention plays in his rescue work? Do you believe in miracles?2. The novel’s title and epigraphs capture the notion that conventional definitions of life and death are tremendously limited, and many of the characters find themselves “in between” these realms, literally or figuratively. Which of the book’s characters do you perceive as being most alive—in any sense of the word?3. What does the sustained baseball ritual at sunset between Charlie and Sam tell us about the power of love, and fear?4. Discuss the significance of the events leading up to the car accident. Is it possible to explain the true “cause” of the crash? How do these ideas affect Charlie in the years after that night?5. Compare the various spirits Charlie observes while he’s on the job in the cemetery. What seems to determine their demeanor?6. In what ways do Tess and Charlie bear similar emotional scars when they meet? Why does Tess crave self-sufficiency at all costs? What motivates her to set off on such a daunting around-the-world mission?7. Ben Sherwood worked as a television news producer for many years. Do you detect any journalistic influences in the novel, or do you think Sherwood’s fiction reflects the opposite of a reporter’s point of view?8. How does Charlie’s experience and special gift compare with your own beliefs about the afterlife?9. In each character’s storyline, what distinctions are made between accident and fate, between chance and destiny? What ultimately saves Tess? From what was Charlie saved?10. The novel contains several bullfighting references, especially in the name of Tess’s boat, Querencia (the spot in the ring where the bull feels protected and secure). Why is the matador analogy an apt one for Charlie and Tess? What defines your querencia?11. One of the main characters in Ben Sherwood’s previous novel, The Man Who Ate the 747, goes to incredible lengths in a case of unrequited love, while the novel’s protagonist finds his life transformed when he unexpectedly meets his soul mate. In what way does The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud enhance and deepen these relationship ideas?12. Although this novel is given a realistic setting and is populated by ordinary men and women, the plot is quite extraordinary. Why did the author choose such an idyllic small-town backdrop?13. What is the effect of ending the novel with a point of view other than Charlie’s? Describe Florio’s role and approach as narrator. Does Florio’s function as storyteller have much in common with his earthly vocation?14. If you were able to visit a lost loved one or friend in the same way Charlie connects with Sam, whom would you like to see? In the novel, spirits take on an idealized appearance. How do you think your loved one would appear to you? How would you spend your time together?15. Sherwood dedicated to this novel to his new wife and to the memory of his father. In what ways are the ideas of love and loss related?

Editorial Reviews

“Ben Sherwood is an amazing writer with the rare gift of evoking genuine emotion. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is touching, wise, and full of hope, everything a wonderful novel should be. Read it – you’ll be glad you did.” --Nicholas Sparks, bestselling author“The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is one of the most magical love stories I've ever read. In his wonderfully inventive way, Ben Sherwood has written a shining affirmation of life.”-- Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees"Loved it, loved it, loved it!! Refreshingly romantic, dangerously good fun, hugely addictive. All too infrequently I pick up a book that is a pure pleasure to read….Intelligent, moving, and sweetly wise, Ben Sherwood is all set to find his way into the soft heart of American literature." --Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat "Sweet and inspirational.... [with] humor all his own."--The Daily News (NY)From the Hardcover edition.