Claire Voyant by Saralee Rosenberg
(Avon, $12.95, PG) ISBN 0-06-058441-6
**
When you look up “clairvoyant” in the dictionary, one definition is “being able to see events that cannot be perceived by the senses.” Clairvoyance does play a part in Saralee Rosenberg’s Claire Voyant, but I didn’t need any special abilities to see that this book features a frustrating heroine whose self-pity continues far too long.

Claire Green is a frustrated actress who is 6 days away from turning 30. When she takes a flight to Florida, she is seated next to an elderly man who appears to want to talk. Claire, however, is upset about her life and isn’t in a social mood. When the man dies of a heart attack on the plane, Claire is overwhelmed with guilt about her disinterest.

To make up for the omission, Claire stays to meet the man’s family. The man was Abe Fabrikant, and Claire meets his son Ben and grandson Drew. They are both kind and sweet toward her, so when they ask about Abe’s final hours, Claire makes up a story — he helped her with a crossword puzzle, told her that he enjoyed his life, and said how proud he was of his family. One lie leads to another, and soon she’s agreeing to speak at the man’s funeral.

She doesn’t get the chance to give a eulogy. A slip in the shower results in a trip to the hospital. When she wakes up, she notices that Abe Fabrikant is also in her hospital room — in spite of the fact that he’s dead.

Claire Voyant is at its best at the beginning of the story. At times I loved Rosenberg’s voice, particularly in humorous moments such as when Claire wonders “why do bills travel at twice the speed of checks?” For much of the story, however, the humor is outweighed by Claire herself. She is a quirky character — a staple of chick lit novels — but her quirkiness isn’t particularly endearing. This is a problem when the story is told in first-person from Claire’s point of view.

Although Claire’s intentions are good, her lies become increasingly elaborate. As she piles on the lies, it becomes clear that she wants to make herself feel better as much as she wants to comfort the Fabrikant family. When the truth comes out, it’s hard to tell whether she’s more upset about being caught then she is about hurting them.

Another chick lit convention has the heroine experiencing several challenges relating to family, relationships, and work. Claire faces similar problems but tends to be self-pitying. This may be true to life, but it’s no fun to read about, especially when self-pity becomes an undercurrent throughout most of the story.

Claire’s clairvoyance plays a smaller part in the story than one might expect from the title. It’s also rather inconsistent and convenient to the plot. In general, the book relies more on coincidence than clairvoyance.

While slow to develop, the romance with Abe’s grandson Drew is interesting. I liked Drew for most of the story, but there was one particularly irritating moment. After he breaks up with his fiancée, Drew leads Claire to believe that they can be together. One minute, they are talking about the future, about “unexplainable connections” and “deep desires.” Then Drew casually mentions a potential obstacle. The fact that he waits to tell her makes him seem thoughtless.

When I finish a good book, I often think, “That was a good journey.” With Claire Voyant, the ending is nice, but it’s not worth the effort it takes to get there.

--Alyssa Hurzeler


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