I swear Anne Tyler was put on this Earth to make me understand passive people. Because I don’t. And Tyler writes them so beautifully. I’m more likely to echo Cloud Dance‘s Denise, who exasperatedly asks Willa (the protagonist), “Why do you go at things slantwise?” She treats Willa (or Macon Leary a la The Accidental Tourist, also set in Baltimore) gently, exposing some of the maddening quirks of her passive nature, but also imbuing her with humanity. Anne incites empathy towards her characters, wanting it known that though it may be harder for them to express their opinions, preferences, boundaries, etc, that does not mean they are any less important. Anne Tyler won a Pulitzer Prize in the 1989 and it is my opinion that her peak period was the 80’s (though I still enjoy/check out her subsequent work). She is a heart-warming author, who tells heart-warming stories. Tyler is a more talented Fannie Flagg; a much more talented Nicholas Sparks.
Our lives can be measured in moments; even quiet lives like Willa Drake’s. Her defining moments can be counted on one hand and with decades between them. 1967: volatile mother temporarily runs off. 1977: on the verge of an engagement to a good-looking, mediocre, douche. 1997: douche dies. 2017: sudden phone call from son’s ex-girlfriend’s neighbor detailing that the ex-girlfriend had been in an accident and the neighbor needed someone to come to Baltimore and take care of the ex-girlfriend’s child. It was already verging on the awkward, Willa’s son and the accident victim being exes and all, but the neighbor was under the mistaken assumption that the child was Willa’s biological grandchild, her son’s child. Willa doesn’t explain that, however. Perhaps there is a bit of a…void in Willa’s life. She enjoys her work as an ESL teacher, but she’s married to another man who masks self-centered aggrandizing with ambition. She rarely sees her sons. She neither feels useful nor valued. So, to the chagrin of douche husband #2, they pack their bags and head east. Let the heart-warming commence: replete with a back drop of big-hearted, eccentric, secretly-smart and sturdy characters Willa begins to ask herself what she wants, what makes her happy, and how to seize her purpose. We’re all doing a clock dance, through life, against life: Willa wants to pay more attention to the steps.
Give Anne Tyler and The Clock Dance a chance. I know the Gillian Flynn types are all the rage right now, but Tyler sees the best in people, and wants you to as well. (If you like to feel a bit uncomfortable while you read, click here).
What are some of your “feel-good” reads? Comment down below! Share this article, spread some positive vibes.