Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ladder of Years

1995, 7th edition from later that year, from Knopf
Anne Tyler
Ladder of Years
Original and/or purchase price unknown
Hardcover in good condition but with worn dust jacket

Tyler's thirteenth novel (the twelfth I'm reviewing) is her weakest since Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, although not as bad as that.  The main character Delia runs away from her life as wife and mother to a new life in a new town, and then runs back to her old life.  This in itself isn't necessarily bad (for her or the narrative), except that I never got the sense of what she liked in her old life, other than she finally feels needed there.  The problem is, she's also needed in her new life.  The fact that she can have two sets of people, not to mention two cats, who forgive her almost without question doesn't sit right with me.

I also found the story anachronistic, and not just because a twelve-year-old boy says "golly."  It's a world with CDs and a few other items that seem to be from the late '80s or later, but the little town she moves to feels like it's out of the 1950s, or earlier, making her transition too easy.  (She walks right into a lawyer's office and gets a job.)  I also felt that, like Helen in Binchy's Glass Lake, only more so, Delia doesn't seem to miss her kids much, and she doesn't have Helen's excuse of running off with her lost love.

Still, I liked the book somewhat, especially things like Rick-Rack's (Tyler is good at imaginary restaurants and stores), and was set to give it a B-, but the ending felt arbitrary.  Unlike in Accidental Tourist, where either of Macon's choices is plausible, but he and Tyler make the right one, here neither of Delia's choices feels right, and the one she makes is possibly worse, since it's clear she'll feel restless and neglected again in the future.  She tells her husband, "All you had to do was ask," but the narrator admits, "Although, in fact, he still had not asked.  Not in so many words."  Even in Earthly Possessions, I bought the return to the husband more.

I'm missing the next few Tylers, and I think the next (and last) one I own is Digging to America, which is not till 2006....

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