Hurrah! The last Anne Tyler book I read was so terrible I couldn’t believe it was written by her. This, though. This was a return to writing as deep and beautiful as Ladder of Years (which you know is a favorite of mine.) And in fact, there are many similarities between the two books.
If I had to describe this book in a nutshell I’d say it is a story about the family history of one particular family in Baltimore, and the house at the center of it all. I love it when a house or setting or object is as much a character in a story as the people, and in this case the beautifully crafted, solid, gracious home built by Junior Whitshank is certainly a character. At first built by Junior for the Brill family, but coveted by him, it houses first Junior, his wife Linnie Mae, and their children-Red and Merrick. Then it houses Red and his wife Abby, and their four children-Denny, Stem, Jeanne, and another girl. Then finally, with the children grown it is just Red and Abby, until the adult children believe help is needed.
The story is told in different sections-each a certain time, and each focusing on one of those characters/couples. I liked very much that we started with Red and Abby, seeing them as parents and grandparents. Getting an idea of what their life has been like, and what their children are like. Denny is the child who is the uncommunicative black sheep, and he is a common thread through almost all of the sections.
Tyler’s characters are not particularly warm or affable, they are certainly flawed, and they do have secrets. But somehow you definitely care for them and hope that they do have good lives and can talk to each other and work things out.
I enjoyed this book so very, very much. I enjoyed reading it, talking about it with my friend, and imagining what is happening in these character’s lives five years from now.
Terrific, stellar writing.