All This Heavenly Glory
by Elizabeth Crane

Published: 2006-06-04
Paperback : 256 pages
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Charlotte Anne Byers is one gloriously flawed human being--a character in whom every reader will see herself reflected. The story of Charlotte's life--from her stint in the youth chorus of her mother's opera company to her battles with addiction, doomed love, and the burdens of familial duty--comes ...
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Charlotte Anne Byers is one gloriously flawed human being--a character in whom every reader will see herself reflected. The story of Charlotte's life--from her stint in the youth chorus of her mother's opera company to her battles with addiction, doomed love, and the burdens of familial duty--comes to us through Charlotte's most private thoughts, her most outrageous associations, her most wicked barbs, her most painful memories, her most honest revelations. This is fiction so intimate, so immediate, so involving that reading it is like making a new friend.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.



SWF, ABOVE AVERAGE on a really good day, on a bad day still fairly cute but you might want to mention that her hair doesn't look too big before she has to ask, frequently compared to a certain movie star (who shall remain nameless, a) in case you don't think she resembles the star, b) in case you don't find the star especially beautiful, and also c) because every time someone says they look like someone in a personal ad it's more like those separated-at-birth things where the allegedly more attractive person suddenly looks distorted and creepy, like Winona Ryder looks eerily like Vincent Price and you can never really see her again in the same way, or if it's a guy who's comparing himself to let's say Ed Harris when in fact he looks more like Curly), is not even remotely overweight but has finally and recently and very reluctantly joined a gym due only to her doctor mentioning something about crumbling bones, stares with open-jawed fascination when the guy at the front desk says Enjoy your workout, thinks better of her inclination to start a long conversation with the front-desk guy about how that's really possible, feels as though no one wants to just come out and say working out is just not fun (excluding the random stand-up comic who will make ironic use of the word work), and so she will be the one to say that it is not only not fun but that sometimes it actually hurts, that if there's some point at which one progresses past the hurt, she hasn't reached it, although she does love to walk and would consider playing volleyball if a rare group of non-competitive volleyball players inclined toward reassuring commentary after any errors or mishaps invited her to play, enjoys tossing a Frisbee, which she's only ever done about twice but would like to do again, believes the Frisbee crowd is a much more tolerant type of crowd, albeit a generally sandalwearing bloc (sandal-wearing being a singly character-revealing quality, far and away less tolerable than something as potentially life-removing and unpleasant to be around as let's say smoking [which more people seem to be inclined to consider giving up], insofar as the desire to display one's feet publicly is always either present or not, and on the subject it seems like Chicago as a city is much more tolerant of and replete with sandal-wearers, unlike New York, where a healthy shame for such things is more widely practiced, plus yuck, just the idea of walking around any major city with your feet exposed to the world seems like an incomprehensible risk, which, she realizes, doesn't up her odds of meeting the perfect non-sandal-wearing man, nevertheless this is probably the only thing she'd ever actively attempt to change about a person, and she can make a really good and lengthy case, and if you really love her you'll just give in to this one thing), loves to ride a bike in places without streets (e.g., Fire Island, which for most people is only a summer community but which she believes ought to serve as a model for cities nationwide), listens to NPR but doesn't suggest you quiz her on Dostoyevsky or anything, comes from a musical/academic family, has been writing since shortly after her long-term memory begins (but has only recently profited from this endeavor due to a current lull in her twenty-five-year run of self-loathing), raised in Manhattan, relocated to Chicago in favor of affordable housing with functioning/sunlight-bearing windows, work history including but not limited to opera singing, Wendy's, network news, soap-opera extra, waitressing, talent management, private tutor, personal assistant/launderer to star of a low-rated situation comedy, rubber stamp sales, preschool teaching, depressing and mind-screwingly prolonged periods of unemployment scattered in there leading as you might imagine to even longer periods of unemployment, and numerous on-set coffeefetching- type jobs ultimately leading to filmmaking; trained in several areas, including typing, bartending, and stand-up comedy (dropping out after being informed that she was not funny), holds a bachelor's degree in Radio and TV, you read that right (on the fourand- a-half-year plan due to indecision/alcohol abuse), enjoys curtain sewing, quilting, flower growing, card making, knitting, journal writing (but refuses under any circumstances to succumb to the now-popular usage of journal as a verb, might mention that there are any number of etymological changes she's seen in her lifetime that she finds exasperating that often involve changing nouns into verbs), still loves movies but can only name a sorry few in recent years that have been at all life-changing or even afternoon-changing (which is maybe unreasonable, maybe she should try harder to believe she could ever meet an adorable tycoon in a chat room or that she might pick up someone remotely Richard Gere-looking if she endeavored into prostitution) but then again finds the lack of life-changing movies to be weirdly inspiring insofar as it has created a drive to make her own life-or-afternoon-changing movies for other people, plus also has the sense that in Chicago if you go to a movie alone and happen to run into someone, the response is likely to be a well-meaning but loneliness-implying I'd have gone with you as opposed to the implicit understanding of New Yorkers for the need to be separate from the presence of others (given that others are so frequently and intrusively present), leading to a solemn nod at most; unashamedly loves a broad range of chick singers (okay, some shame), excluding only country and/or any sort of post-Aretha Franklin melisma, believes in god but would have to double the length of this ad to explain what it is she does and doesn't believe, encompassing all god-related doubts, questions, and fears, after extensive research determined that it is better for everyone involved if she doesn't drink (coming to this conclusion after one of the more prolonged periods of unemployment in which beer and sofa became her primary fields of interest, coupled with a tendency to find boyfriends who seemed considerably more appealing under the influence of large quantities of beer, unable to give up beer by sheer force of will, joined a twelve-step program that not only helped her with the beer/sofa issue, subtracting beer/sofa from the equation actually helped her in bunches of ways, such as she can actually go to a party now and not be completely terrified of saying something unbelievably stupid, or being able to find meaningful work, or generally getting along in the world more comfortably without being in some state of unconsciousness, although the etymology thing resurfaces again here because there is a tendency in twelve-step programs to create words and phrases that don't exist outside of twelve-step programs, e.g., uncomfortability or family of origin or rage as a verb or phrases like my last drunk meaning not the last drunk person they dated [or possibly owned?] but to mean the last time they drank and maybe those two extra words are a time consideration? which wouldn't explain the extra four syllables in uncomfortability when one could simply use the less wieldy discomfort, except when considering that alcoholics seem to like having a word that indicates a greater discomfort than non-alcoholic discomfort), has some lingering driving issues (e.g., does not enjoy passengers/left turns/the expressway/snow/rain/dew) but drives anyway since the closest el stop is a mile away and the buses are intolerably slow (plus the space invasions are too numerous to even list, there's a lot of food on the bus, e.g., buttered corn on a stick is popular, which really you just don't want to get too close to); defects of character include but are not necessarily limited to excessive fascination with self, not to be confused with selfishness or vanity, vanity, a tendency to shout when things don't go her way (more often than not, in the privacy of her own home), e.g., printers jamming repeatedly or not being able to reach an actual operator after punching numbers into ComEd's automated voice system repeatedly or pretty much anything that happens repeatedly, unsuccessful repetition of any kind has resulted in shouting, occasionally regarded by others as delusional (at least with regard to who she thinks will date her, whether they're twenty-five or possibly a movie star), has an obsession with buying three books for every one read, a tendency to believe that large numbers of candles/office supplies/antique clocks/valentines/ photos/toys will result in some sort of self-improvement, and a serious television addiction (more accurately, the television is usually on if she is in any way awake, whether or not it's being paid attention to, however there is generally and simultaneously a laptop in her lap, any one of the six books/magazines/journals she's usually reading at one time in her lap, an art/textile/ bead/yarn-related project in her lap, dinner or a snack food somewhere near her lap, not nearly often enough is there anything warm and lifelike in or near her lap, could easily be persuaded to turn off the television in order to fully participate if pleasurable lap-oriented activity seemed imminent); in search of Owen Wilson for long-term relationship possibly involving children and a simple but elegant ceremony in which she gets to wear some beautiful whitish possibly vintage dress, with a gardenia in her hair, or some other little fragrant blossoms (and on which occasion she would certainly not subject her very best girlfriends to wearing something hideous in any misguided attempt to offset her own glory), in which there are maybe some little kids in velvet tossing rose petals down the aisle, in which they have a bonfire and a weenie roast on the beach and a cake made of marshmallows, in which everyone goes swimming in their fancy clothes, in which friends come from far and also from wide to celebrate their unprecedented great love, in which toasts are made in memory of her mom, in which she will probably mess up her makeup walking down the aisle wishing her mom was there, in which her stepdad will say that she is there, which she will understand but will prefer his meaning to be literal, that he would then say, No really she's right there, and there she would be, on the bride's side of the aisle, in a tasteful and timeless silk suit (she was always willing to spend money on any timeless garment as an investment) and expensive shoes (a concession to her daughter imploring her to treat herself to one really nice pair of neutral shoes instead of forty pairs of identical shoes in every color from Payless), wiping her eyes with a typically wrinkly embroidered hanky from the bottom of her purse, but also whispering to her stepfather something like Finally! and making a face about somebody's tacky and not-at-all-timeless outfit, is figuring that if her mom doesn't show up from the afterlife to attend her simple but elegant wedding, she can't imagine when she would come, unless she has kids right away, maybe then she would come; not in search of an Owen Wilson "type," not ISO anyone who looks, acts, sounds like, or does an impression of Owen Wilson, in search of the actual Owen Wilson; feels that the problem with these ads is that there's a valley between how people portray themselves and how they actually are, between what they are looking for and what actually responds (has one brief but compellingly unfortunate prior experience with personal ads in which one respondent who described himself as a handsome and welldressed forty-year-old in fact could only be compared to Deputy Dog, if D. Dog had a comb-over and wore a soiled t-shirt with pleated pants and was closer to sixty and not a cartoon), that it seems like maybe people are not only not being truthful enough, they're not being specific enough and so has decided to try to set a precedent with regard to specificity, of course that said, she's unable to specify what O.W. should be like, since he's already like whatever he's like, and realizes that the phrase seeks Owen Wilson is an unusual phrase to stumble across while reading the personal ads except imagine you're Owen Wilson, and you're reading the personal ads, which is admittedly unlikely to begin with but imagine that someone who knows you, Owen Wilson, reads the personal ads and bothers to read this kind of long one and then passes it on to you, and it's maybe a little weird, still, you read past the first few pages and get to the part where it says seeks Owen Wilson and not even seeks Owen Wilson type, imagine that, because it seems possible that you might be flattered, maybe you'd even feel luckier than usual that you were Owen Wilson (in the same way that some larger group of guys might feel lucky that they were 25-45, attractive, and successful), especially if there were any possibility that there were other days when you might feel that there were drawbacks to being Owen Wilson, such as even having to incorporate the word paparazzi into your vocabulary and trying to say it with any kind of seriousness, or having to fire your former personal assistant for napping in your bed in your pj's while you were out, which was a particular bummer because you really thought of him as a bud, or like if your brother got picked to be People's Sexiest Man Alive but you didn't, or worse, like if they were considering having Sexiest Brothers Alive but then for some reason decided that your brother Luke by himself was the better choice, or constantly wondering if people were only interested in you because you were Owen Wilson, which it should be made clear is not what's happening here because if you were Owen Wilson but you were any kind of a tool she would be as uninterested in getting involved as she would be with any other less-famous tool; the hope is that O.W. will exhibit an inviting and exhilarating humanity but also maybe it would be good if they were sort of equal, that maybe Owen Wilson also has some tolerable habits or defects of character, almost any manner of insecurity is acceptable and almost welcome as it tends to make her feel more normal to hang around people who also let's say have occasional afternoonruining relapses into self-doubt or if it turns out he spends a little too much in the way of both time and products trying to get his hair to look like that, that would be all right, but maybe it should also be said that it's totally unacceptable if the insecurities make the other person feel inferior in any way (see: the whole "tool" thing); while she absolutely believes in the possibility that some non-actual Owen Wilson could amuse and entertain and hopefully arouse her interest just as much as the actual Owen Wilson, she hasn't met such a person thus far or she wouldn't be placing an ad, especially one that potentially portrays her as a stalker of any kind, which she is not, she would totally walk away from anyone Owen Wilson or non-O.W. who wasn't moved by her possibly certain-movie-star looks and slightly above-average, if cluttered, mind, that is to say she's as familiar with rejection as anyone and is generally not inclined to try to reverse any rejection-oriented decisions as she understands that to be futile (having on occasion been in the position of rejecting and grateful not to have any stalking situations inflicted upon her), in other words is willing to suffer the rejection but not willing to sit around anymore waiting for any Owen Wilsons, real or otherwise, to come knocking on her door just out of the blue or something; realizes that a story in the form of a personal ad potentially invites a variety of criticism, e.g., thinly veiled autobiography of previous work reaches unprecedented levels of selfconsciousness, that sort of thing, also realizes that just because she realizes it doesn't mean it still won't happen, autobiography is veiled at least insofar as the author of this personal ad is actually spoken for and therefore does not wish to mislead Owen Wilson into thinking she is available while also not meaning to diminish his appeal in any way, supposes that her boyfriend who admits to a crush on Drew Barrymore wouldn't freak out if she admitted to finding Owen Wilson appealing given the likelihood of either of them meeting and subsequently dating Drew Barrymore and Owen Wilson via the personal ads, although writing this her mind is already going to the bad place wherein Owen Wilson reads the personal ad and shows it to Drew Barrymore, who somehow finds out who the author's boyfriend is and where he lives and then flies on her private jet to Chicago and they meet and she jets the author's boyfriend away and they have lobster and truffles in their water bed on the private jet and laugh about leaving the SWF behind and Owen Wilson is already in a serious relationship and not even with Salma Hayek or whoever but with like some overhyped author she thinks is particularly bad; anyway, after that little digression the wrap-up becomes a bit problematic in that you now know that this has a happy non-Owen Wilson ending, but that seems fitting under the circumstances. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions from the Publisher's Reading Guide:

1. "Ad" is a breathlessly worded personal that introduces just about every aspect of Charlotte’s character: her desires, her quirks, her gripes and delights. How does it serve as a first impression of Charlotte? If you created a similar ad, how would it read? What would you include and what would you hope it conveyed about you?

2. At eight years old, Charlotte finds herself in the youth chorus of her mother’s opera company, and the experience exposes her to a world of pageantry, melodrama, and the idea of castration. Was such a world too sophisticated for a young girl, or is Charlotte mature enough despite her tender age? And how does her precociousness affect the woman she becomes?

3. Charlotte’s friendship with Declan is complex, and it causes her to think about fame, intimacy, and dependency. What does Declan’s insecurity say about him? What does Charlotte’s reponse to it say about her? What does she learn from him? How would you behave in that type of relationship?

4. Did you read this book as though it were a novel, or a story collection? What makes this a novel, or not?

5. Why do you suppose Crane chose to write most of Charlotte Anne’s childhood stories in the present tense and the adulthood stories in the past tense? How does this contribute to your experience of the story? Do our distant memories feel constant in some sense?

6. What do you think of Charlotte Anne’s spiritual life? Does it make her even less reliable as a narrator, or does it make her more human? Do you agree or disagree with her views on spirituality? How do her views evolve?

7. Clearly, Charlotte Anne has her flaws and her strengths. Is she someone you’d want to be friends with, or someone you’d want to strangle? If you were Charlotte Anne, would you want to strangle yourself ?

8. "Ad" and “Glory” both employ elements of fantasy, but most of the book is based in reality. How does fantasy contribute to the book and to your understanding of Charlotte Anne? Does it distract you? How so?

9. Jenna is certainly Charlotte Anne’s touchstone. How might Charlotte Anne’s life be different if she didn’t have Jenna? Would it be better in any way? Who is your Jenna? How do you think your best friend would help you if you were faced with some of the same situations as Charlotte Anne?

Copyright 2006 by Hachette Book Group USA

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Charlotte Anne Byers tells of her life with disfunctional mother and how that effects her decisions throughout her life."by Lise H. (see profile) 12/04/08

Everyone in our book club disliked this book immensely! It provoked a lot of discussion, however. We spent a long time trying to figure out what who would enjoy reading this book; after all, there are... (read more)

  "don't bother"by Melanie S. (see profile) 11/22/08

Not much substance for a book club. It read like a season of condensed "FRIENDS" episodes. I couldn't relate to the main character at all.

  "I HATED IT!!!"by Gina S. (see profile) 11/17/08

This was one of the hardest reads I ever had!!! The running of the mouth of this author was ridiculous. Thank goodness it was only 225 pages!!!!

  "Painful to Read!"by Donna D. (see profile) 11/17/08

I would not recommend this book to anyone. The writing style is annoying, the characters not likable, and the plot nonexistent. There is material for discussion within, but it isn't worth wading through... (read more)

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