This summer has been my Anne Tyler book phase. I’ve gone through book phases most of my life. I remember my Michael Crichton phase (a gorilla named Amy!) and I had a John Grisham phase (lawyers can be interesting). My Jane Austen phase was fun, but all too quickly I was through her books. I’ve noticed God brings me to the right books at the right time. I love Anne Tyler’s writing, and I would say “I can’t believe I’ve never read her books before this summer” except I do believe it. God does these things for a reason. I can learn a lot of writing craft from Ms. Tyler, and apparently now is the time for it.
More for my benefit than yours, I’m going to list the books I read and write a little something about each one. I would do my usual quote, but I don’t have the books anymore.
If Morning Ever Comes: Anne’s first book, and I adored it, even though it did not take place in Baltimore! A male hero in a houseful of females.
The Clock Winder: I didn’t immediately like Elizabeth, the heroine, or any of the characters for that matter, but I did stick with it and was satisfied with the ending. The locusts at the end are very memorable!
Celestial Navigation: One of my favorites! It’s about an eccentric artist. The structure of this book is something I’d like to try: each chapter is titled by a character’s name and goes deep into that person’s conscience. It shows off Anne’s great ability to get into her characters’ existence.
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant: Another book I had to stick with because I didn’t immediately like the characters. The owner of the restaurant, Ezra, is the most likable character, but I did not like how he never came up on top. He’s the type of person to be walked all over by his family. Maybe that’s the point. I read an interview with Anne Tyler, and apparently Ezra is one of her favorite characters.
The Accidental Tourist: The bad morality of this book clashes with the great writing. I have mixed opinions.
Breathing Lessons: This is my favorite. It’s about a lot of things, but among them is the marriage of Ira and Maggie, a middle-aged couple going to a funeral of a friend’s husband. I know this sounds extreme, but I’ve decided Ira is my second-favorite male book character, right after Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre.
Ladder of Years: Another middle-aged mom, and this one is very sweet. She does something spontaneous and can’t get out of it. I like the way life happens to her, and the way the story continues though almost nothing can be easily ironed out at the end.
Back When We Were Grownups: Yet another middle-aged mom, this time a widow. An introvert who ended up being a party-planner! I like how this job (which came naturally with her marriage) changed her over time. The birthday party at the end with the old family video seemed like such a good way to finish the book. I would rate this as my second-favorite Anne Tyler book.
The Amateur Marriage: This book seemed more historical, following the beginning of the marriage, but it does end up in the present when the main characters are old. I didn’t really like this book because of the way it treats divorce and unfaithfulness, but again the writing itself is admirable.
Digging to America: The only one I couldn’t finish. I don’t know why.
Noah’s Compass: This time it’s about an older dad, widowed and divorced, and he meets someone much younger… Again, the morality isn’t the best, but I did feel sympathy for Liam.
The Beginner’s Goodbye: This is one of the more memorable ones for me. Aaron’s wife is killed in a freak accident, and he has difficulty dealing with his grief. I’d say this is the most touching story she has written (of the ones I’ve read, of course).
A Spool of Blue Thread: Well, this is the first one I read, and the way she writes from the very soul of her characters captured me. I don’t particularly care for the plot in this book, but plot isn’t everything. In fact, in Anne Tyler books, plot is minor. Character is key.
Vinegar Girl: Brand-new Anne Tyler book! It is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Kate is a shrew all right, and she is tamed by the end. The real feat here is getting the reader to dislike Kate in the beginning and then slowly reel them into sympathizing with her. It might as well be The Taming of the Reader. I love the Russian hero, Pyotr! I’m glad Kate ends up loving him, too.
That’s all I read. I still have a few to go, but I’m taking a break. I have to concentrate on school for awhile. Does anyone else out there have a favorite Anne Tyler book or character?