Its no secret around here that I’m a great fan of Anne Tyler or that I could’t wait to get my hands on her latest Bailey’s prize shortlisted novel. I certainly couldn’t wait until it came out in paperback. A hardback book is something special and I’m very happy I treated myself to this. It makes it even more of a joy to read.
This is the story of the Whitshank’s and their house. Abby and Red are in their 70’s and live in the house that Reds father built and brought his family up in. As they enter their twilight years their family, Amanda, Jeannie, Stem, their partners and the elusive Denny converge on them to make decisions about their future.
As with all Anne Tyler novels, on the surface this story of domestic life might at first glance appear sugary and sweet. However, it doesn’t take long for her skilful story telling to make you realise all is not as it might appear. Bombshells are gently dropped into the story as it becomes clear that the Whitshank’s are not the ideal family they might be mistaken for.
“I’m angry at your for leading us on such song and dance all those years, not just these last few years but all the years, skipping all those holidays and staying away from the beach trips and missing Mom and Dad’s thirtieth anniversary another thirty-fith and Jeannie’s baby and not attending my wedding that time or or even sending a card or calling to wish me well. But most of all Denny, most of all: I will never forgive you for consuming every little drop of our parents’ attention and leaving nothing for the res of us.”
Like all of Anne Tyler’s novels this is one that needs to be read more than once. She has such a continuously beautiful turn of phrase that its difficult to really appreciate her writing in just one read.
“…I saw the back of his neck, this fragile, slender stem of a neck and it struck me all at once that there was nobody anywhere, any place on this planet, who would look at that little neck and just have to reach out and cup a hand behind it. You know how you just have to touch your child, sometimes? How you drink him in with your eyes and you could stare at him for hours and you marvel at how dear and impossibly perfect he is”
Another cleverly observant and sympathetic novel by Anne Tyler and one I certainly commend her to you.
Image: Changing Pages