Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

ladderAs I may have mentioned, 2014 is going to be my year of rereading books I’ve loved and never take the time to revisit. I first read Ladder of Years a long time ago, in my 20s, before I was married.  It might seem strange that a book about a woman who one days just walks away from her unappreciative family and begins a new life would resonate so much with me at the time, but it did. I just loved it. And there have been many times over the years that I’ve thought fondly of the book, especially at times when I, too, thought there was something very appealing about taking a break from regular life and just walking down the beach-away. So, here it is probably almost 20 years or so later and guess what? I loved it just as much. In fact, maybe even a bit more because one thing I had forgotten was what a good writer Tyler is. So many sentences were just beautifully crafted, with precise and thoughtful word choices. I loved the line when Delia says something like she had not realized that worry could be dumped into someone else’s lap, like a physical object. How freeing!
The story is that Delia Grinstead, wife to Dr. Grinstead, mother to three older (teen/adult) children, one day during their family vacation just goes for a walk and somehow finds herself leaving them.  She doesn’t really mean to-it just happens. In her bathing suit and husband’s beach robe, with just her tote bag.  She winds up in a very quaint small town and, surprising herself, rents a room in a boarding house. Just for one night, she thinks. But then she buys a dress at the thrift store and when she puts it on feels like she is putting on a new persona. And this persona is someone who is solitary, contained, neat, and precise. This person also is very confident.  All things Delia not only has never really felt, but that her family certainly never believed her to be. They take her for granted, consider her flighty and silly. Delia takes a job as a secretary and day by day is further away from her messy former life. One thing I noticed (as I have often when I read books/see movies from earlier in my life) is that this story just wouldn’t be the same today with computers and cell phones.
This is a beautiful story and perfectly told. I was surprised by one rather significant detail which I couldn’t believe I didn’t remember. Other parts came back to me as I read them and were wonderfully nice to read again. I had forgotten the quiet humor that occasionally turned up. I had also forgotten that there is an element to the ending that I did find unsatisfying and I wonder if when I first read it I reacted the same way or not.
A terrific book!

3 thoughts on “Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

  1. I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing- spending a year re-reading my beloved books. But haven’t quite started to tackle that yet… Is it going well? any disappointments?

    • Well, it’s my first re=read of the summer, so yes going well. I have a list I want to do, including Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Apparently I lost my precious copy so I had to order a new one. On another site, though, I did a whole series of posts where I reread books from when I was a teenager and determined how they held up both for today’s audience and also to my memory. It’s called That Was Then, This Is Now.

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