‘Searching For Caleb’ was this holiday’s Anne Tyler book of choice. It was surprisingly, first published way back in 1975. I wouldn’t have realised that when reading it. Although 40 years isn’t so long ago, its a long time in contemporary fiction. Perhaps that’s testimony to Anne Tyler’s timeless writing.
As with all Tyler’s stories this is about family. The slightly eccentric and self absorbed Peck family in this instance. The Pecks pride themselves on their closeness and ability to live in a self contained and exclusive way. They are indeed successful but, they are also smug, and from their lofty heights they have elevated themselves to, they gaze down upon those around them. To be a Peck you have to live in a certain way which they assume must be the envy of all. As with most families, all is not as it may seem.
Caleb Peck left the family. One day he just walked out and never came back. His brother Daniel Peck, now 91, with the help of his unconventional granddaughter Justine is searching for Caleb. Justine who was once very conventional broke that mould when she married her cousin Duncan. Similarly to Caleb, Duncan too, one day up and left. Justine and Duncan make for an odd couple. He is constantly restless, moving his family from one southern state to another as he searches for something he just can’t seem to find. Justine who has become a fortune teller and resigned to this nomadic life follows him. As she urges their grandfather forward in his relentless searches for Caleb , she is also searching for that part of herself she left behind when she married Duncan, leaving the safety of the Peck enclosure.
On the surface, and as the story begins it may seem fairly standard but as characters and themes of searching and finding oneself emerge it becomes more complex and deliciously engaging. For stories about the minutiae of human nature and family life, Anne Tyler is hard to beat. This book also ends so well, and you can’t say that about too many books.
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