Wallflower in Bloom

Scroll down to read an excerpt and for book club questions, drink recipes, and even cupcake flags!

A Working Mother Summer Beach Read!

A Target Recommended Read!

An Indie Next pick!

A She Reads book club pick!

WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM is absolutely, hands-down, Claire Cook's best novel to date. Cook's characters are delightful and quirky, and the storyline is fast paced and lively with just the right touch of humor and romance. Slip on your dancing shoes and enjoy a few spins around the floor with this charming novel!” - Fresh Fiction

Wallflower in Bloom - cover

“Fun and inspiring...Cook’s humor and narrative execution are impeccable.” -Publishers Weekly

“Filled with sweet humor and all the eye-rolling moments of jumbled yet ultimately loving family relations, romance, and coming into one’s own, this women’s fiction is a definite pleaser” - Booklist

“Cook’s penchant for hitting the emotional sore spot and combining it with humor hits the mark. ... A thoroughly enjoyable and amusing read, this story is sure to delight.” -New York Journal of Books 

 fun-filled romp of a middle-aged woman coming into her own. Through Claire Cook’s skilled narrative, [readers] won’t realize till the very end they’ve been taught a wonderful lesson. It is never too late to find your place in the world.” -San Francisco Book Review 

“Cook has a light, fun voice and always infuses her stories with great wit and heart.” -Cape Cod Times

“The perfect summer read . . . Showcases Cook's ability to create likable, realistic characters who are placed in situations in which they must do some serious soul searching--and the reader will love the results.” -Examiner.com 

Deirdre Griffin has a great life; it’s just not her own. She’s the round-the-clock personal assistant to her charismatic, high-maintenance, New Age guru brother, Tag. As the family wallflower, her only worth seems to be as gatekeeper to Tag at his New England seaside compound. 

Then Deirdre’s sometime-boyfriend informs her that he is marrying another woman, who just happens to be having the baby he told Deirdre he never wanted. While drowning her sorrows in Tag’s expensive vodka, Deirdre decides to use his massive online following to get herself voted on as a last-minute Dancing with the Stars replacement. It’ll get her back in shape, mentally and physically. It might even get her a life of her own. Deirdre’s fifteen minutes of fame have begun. 

Irresistible, offbeat, yet with a thoroughly relatable and appealing heroine, Wallflower in Bloom is an original and deeply satisfying story of one woman who’s ready to take a leap into the spotlight, no matter where she lands.

wallflower in bloom 

Excerpted from Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook.

Copyright © 2012 CLAIRE COOK. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Who will buy the cow if you give away the milk for free, yet once you get a taste of the milk, who can resist coming back to the cow?

My brother was dazzling, as usual. “Do. You. Have. Passion?” he roared. His white teeth gleamed. His elegant hands beckoned. His bedroom eyes twinkled. The sold-out mostly female audience drooled.

My brother’s eyes were a big part of his It Thing. You couldn’t look away. They were blue. Endless blue. Deep, glittery blue, like the ocean when the setting sun hits it just the right way.

Of course, luck of the gene pool and all that, my own eyes were wallflower brown.

I watched my famous brother scan the room, somehow appearing to make contact with each and every set of seeking eyes in the audience. “The Ancient Greeks asked only one question at a person’s funeral: Did. He. Or she. Have. Passion?”

When he lifted his palms to the heavens, his crisp white tunic exposed just the right amount of muscular forearm. “Find yours. See it clearly in your mind’s eye. Design the life your passion desires. And remember, passion doesn’t sleep. It is always there, waiting for you.”

Everywhere I looked, people were scribbling in notebooks. Some of them were surreptitiously videotaping with cell phones and tiny flip cameras, even though they weren’t supposed to. The whole point was to get them to buy the videos. But the world was changing at lightning speed, and now we were even posting our own video clips on YouTube and Facebook in the hopes they’d go viral. I mean, on one hand, who will buy the cow if you give away the milk for free, yet once you get a taste of the milk, who can resist coming back to the cow?

Ohmigod, I was starting to sound like my freakin’ brother.

He was really getting into it now. “The voice of passion. Is. Not. A book. It’s not a feature film. It’s short and direct, like a haiku straight to your heart.”

You could hear a cliché drop. Some people were nodding, but most were leaning forward in their seats, waiting for The Answer.

“But if you start from a place of self-criticism, of self-rejection, you’ll never hear what it’s saying to you. Accept yourself. Start where you are. And the voice of passion will speak to you. It will come like a bolt of lightning. And you’ll know. Your. Life’s. True. Purpose.”

When I stood up and dimmed the fluorescent lights from the back of the room, preselected audience members rose to light candles circling the front lip of the stage.

My brother reached behind the curtains at the back of the stage and pulled out a battered acoustic guitar. He plugged it into the amplifier, straddled a high wooden stool, crossed one distressed jean–clad leg over the other.

And then he actually sang “O-o-h Child,” that old ’70s song by the Five Stairsteps, the one about how things are going to get easier. And brighter.

Mine were the only dry eyes in the house.

“Hold the fort,” my father had said before he and my mother left me to babysit the concession table while they took their usual place in the front row. My parents stood up now, flicked on matching Bic lighters, and waved their arms high while they rocked side to side in time to the music. From the back, in their tie-dyed T-shirts that proclaimed tag! in fluorescent green, they could have been twins, except that my father’s gray curls dead-ended just over his ears, while my mother’s continued up to the top of her head.

My brother getting famous was the best thing that had ever happened to them. They’d been recreational Deadheads since the ’60s, and once my sisters and brother and I were born, they just threw us into the car whenever there was an outdoor Grateful Dead concert anywhere within striking distance. I grew up thinking summer vacation meant standing in a field somewhere, jumping up and down to “Sugar Magnolia.”

My parents took it hard when Jerry Garcia died. They’d been counting on becoming full-time Deadheads in their retirement. For a few years they followed tribute bands like Dark Star Orchestra halfheartedly, then they took up bowling. No one was happier than they were when my brother became the family rock star a few years ago.

Like everything else in his life, the whole guru thing had pretty much landed in my brother’s lap. One minute he was just another guy playing his guitar, with a gift for inspirational gab between sets. Then a fan put a snippet of one of his over-the-top motivational orations up on YouTube, and a week later a producer from The Ellen DeGeneres Show was on the phone booking him. And of course, my brother being my brother, he was a big hit. And the rest is history.

I yawned and stretched and got ready for the onslaught. Once my brother did his thing, his followers would buy anything that wasn’t nailed down. My parents handled this end of things, both online and at events like this one, and earned a retirement-friendly commission on every item sold. I straightened a pile of T-shirts packaged in little boxes shaped like guitars. I moved the CDs and DVDs a little closer to the books because they were blocking the energy beads.

A short group meditation was followed by deafening, mountain-moving applause. My parents hurried back and slid next to me behind the table.

My mother adjusted the No. 2 pencil behind her ear and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. “I think that was his best job ever,” she said, like she did every time.

“That’s my boy,” my father said. He alternated this with “way to go.”

“How’d I do on the lights?” I asked.

My father laughed. “What a card,” he said, as he swung his arm over my shoulder. I noticed we were almost the same height now. Either he was shrinking, or I was having a vertical growth spurt to match my horizontal one.

I kissed my father on the cheek and ducked out from under his arm. I had to make my way up to the front fast so I could herd my brother to the signing table before his rabid fans waylaid him.

“Single file,” my mother was saying to the people already approaching the table as I walked away, “and no pushing. We’ll start when you’re ready.” There was no mistaking my mother’s former profession. She still had that fifth-grade teacher’s vibe going on, and everybody always obeyed her and funneled right into a single line. Two security guys from the hotel crossed their arms over their chests for reinforcement.

I entertained myself by turning sideways and chasséing through the crowd, homing in on Tag by the booming, melodious sound of his laugh. “Excuse me,” I said when someone wouldn’t get out of my way, and when that didn’t work, I used a discreet elbow.

“Unbelievable,” I heard my brother say. “What a blast from the past! What are you doing in Austin?”

I worked my way up to him, fully expecting to see some woman he’d once slept with and whose name he was frantically trying to remember. I knew the drill. I’d stick out my hand and introduce myself so she’d have to tell me her name. And then my brother would pretend he’d known it all along.

“Dee,” my brother said, turning to me. “You’ll never guess who showed up. Steve Moretti. I went to UMass with him.”

I swallowed back another yawn. The more famous my brother became, the more old friends came out of the woodwork.

“Steve,” my brother said, “this is my sister Deirdre.”

And then the Austin crowd parted to reveal the guy who’d last seen my underpants.

Keep reading wallflower in bloom

“Deirdre Griffin lives in the shadow of her larger-than-life, New Age guru brother, Tag, and how is she SUPPOSED to bloom like that? Claire Cook always delivers the goods when you need a rollicking fun read.  And if the third chapter in WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM doesn't make you cry laughing and snort Diet Pepsi out of your nose, we need to talk, honey!”   – Jill Miner, Saturn Booksellers

“Once again readers have the delicious opportunity to dive into a Claire Cook novel, with her signature laugh out loud perspective of women in midlife. . .Claire Cook manages as always to keep the reader laughing, even as she inspires us to reach higher and live the life we’ve only imagined! -Karen Vail, Titcomb’s Bookshop,readermaniac

“This book is completely hilarious and pretty much impossible to put down once Deirdre starts her training.  In between the slapstick, there are gentle touches on body image, weight, confidence, family and more.  Once again, Cook tells it like so many women know it (only with more laughs), and this book will delight her fans, and no doubt earn her some more.” - Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover

“Deirdre Griffin’s life is not her own. Her high-maintenance, charismatic brother, Tag, is a New Age guru and a national sensation. As his gatekeeper and personal assistant, Deidre’s frustrations with her family, and herself, bring her to a hysterical moment. After drowning her sorrows in vodka, Deidre gets herself voted onto Dancing With the Stars as a replacement by way of Tag’s online followers. This is a very funny read that will make you roll your eyes about family!” — Joanne Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends

“Who needs to. Clean the house.  Grocery shop. Do laundry.  Answer the phone. When there's a new Claire Cook book to read.  It is Cook who is in full bloom here, and WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM is another perfect beach read - OUTSTANDING!!   I loved it - a metaphor on life - so many life lessons told with Cook's characteristic humor and heart.”

- Joan Lang, Front Street Book Shop

Enjoy and feel free to print and share the following materials with your book club!

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Claire reads an excerpt of Wallflower in Bloom