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At 26, Larry Weller thinks his future lies in flowers. He still lives at home, has a new career as a floral designer, and a girlfriend about whom he is somewhat ambivalent. What Larry is about to discover is that life is never a straightforward path. His girlfriend becomes pregnant. They marry and set off for their honeymoon in England where Larry stumbles upon what will become his greatest passion in life. He takes up the creation and construction of meticulous mazes, which leads him down blind alleys and dead ends, failed marriages and changing expectations. It all comes together in an unforgettable dinner party in this warm and witty coming-of-middle-age novel. Published four years after The Stone Diaries, Larry's Party won the UK's Orange Prize for fiction and is one of Carol Shields's most critically successful works. Published in numerous editions by Penguin, the book has now sold more than 100,000 copies in the United States alone. This audio recording, first released in audiocassette in Canada in 1998, received wide critical acclaim in its original edition.
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Larry Weller is a regular guy, or so Carol Shields has him think. When we first meet him in 1977 Winnipeg at age 26, he's pondering the pluses of Harris tweed, still living at home, and realizing he's in love with his girlfriend, Dorrie, a flinty car saleswoman. Larry is proud of his job at Flowerfolks, even though he fell into floral design by accident, and if his relationship with his parents isn't perfect, it's not too bad, either. (Stu and Flo Weller may have less page-time in Larry's Party, but they are hugely memorable. He is a master upholsterer, happiest when working; she is a woman ruined by nervous guilt, having inadvertently killed off her mother-in-law with some improperly preserved green beans.)
Carol Shields has said that she had "always been struck by the fact that in most novels people aren't working." Though her hero climbs the floral managerial trellis for 17 years and finds more rhapsody in work than marriage, Larry and Dorrie's honeymoon in England points him toward what will be his true vocation--mazes. These living constructs turn him into a thinker, a man of imagination, and the author's descriptions are quietly spectacular as well as effortlessly sweet. Larry wonders at their "teasing elegance and circularity ... a snail, a scribble, a doodle on the earth's skin with no other directed purpose but to wind its sinuous way around itself." Just as Larry changes with the times--each elliptical chapter ages him by one or two years--so does his art. In 1990, he designs a maze in which you can't really lose yourself. In 1997, the McCord Maze "is intended to mirror the descent into unconscious sleep, followed by a slow awakening." Larry, too, has a slow awakening, taking several false turns before reaching midlife. As the novel closes, with a bravura dinner party scene, he may finally be at ease in the world. But his creator knows that he is only halfway there, and still has to negotiate his way from the center of the maze to its exit.From the Inside Flap:
The Stone Diaries marked a new phase in a literary career already ablaze with achievement. As well as the many international awards it received, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Governor General's Award, the book also met with universal critical acclaim and topped bestseller lists around the world. "Carol Shields," raved Maclean's, "has crafted a small miracle of a novel." " The Stone Diaries," said the New York Times Book Review, "reminds us again why literature matters."
The San Diego Tribune called The Stone Diaries "a universal study of what makes women tick." Now, in Larry's Party, Carol Shields does the same for men.
Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator's perception, irony and tenderness. Larry's Party gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997 that flash backward and forward seamlessly. As Larry journeys toward the new millennium, adapting to society's changing expectations of men, Shields' elegant prose transforms the trivial into the momentous. We follow this young floral designer through two marriages and divorces, his interactions with parents, friends and a son. And throughout, we witness his deepening passion for garden mazes -- so like life, with their teasing treachery and promise of reward. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, Larry moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties and the lean, mean nineties, completing at last his quiet, stubborn search for self.
Larry's odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy and faultless wisdom.
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