Thank you, Anne Tyler

I try to be open to new writers and each year read a few debuts or authors I’m unfamiliar with, sometimes on other’s recommendations, sometimes at a writer’s or publisher’s request. Still, for me, there is a clear gold standard reserved for those writers who, over decades of wonderful books, always satisfy me, challenge or teach me, make me laugh, or bring me to tears.

I began reading Anne Tyler in the late 1980s, at the urging of my late dear friend Gerry. Incidentally, my then teen-aged daughter fell for her then, too. Anne Tyler persists today as one of our country’s great novelists. My list of favorites includes but isn’t limited to The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, Saint Maybe, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Digging to America, Ladder of Years, The Beginner’s Goodbye, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. My most recent read was Vinegar Girl, a delightful adaptation of Taming of the Shrew that is part of the author-by-invitation Hogarth Shakespeare series (possibly more about that another time).

Anne Tyler’s painstakingly human characters simultaneously steal your heart and get under your skin, much the way your own family can. She’s one of the few writers whose new books I will always seek out. She is a master of cultural and family dynamics, odd and ordinary, and of the impact that seminal life events, both predictable and unexpected, have on us within and beyond the context of our relationships and prescribed roles. She can isolate what seems like the tiniest detail—A Spool of Blue Thread—and build a story around it that’s as abundant with universality and meaning as it is with the quirks and tics of everyday life. I’ve never read anything more poignant about the loss of a spouse than The Beginner’s Goodbye. Whenever I see or hear or read about the sometimes curious circumstances that give “lost” people comfort, I think about Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and Saint Maybe. Digging to America is a brilliant and highly relevant examination of the idea of “home” that finds it far more fluid than most of us would think. The Pulitzer Prize winner Breathing Lessons is rich with lessons of lasting relevance to marriage, parenthood, and family life, however fractured. I could go on and on.

In my first college-level writing course, I was advised to “write what you know.” This maxim has been challenged over time as a buzz-kill for the imagination. Still, for me, the best novels, the ones that win a lifelong place in my head and my heart, are those that ring true. Anne Tyler’s characters sometimes display a quirkiness that on the surface seems a stretch; but once you go deeper, you understand how fundamentally true they are. Her brilliance is her ability to reveal these lessons so subtly in the construction, actualization, and completeness of her characters. There isn’t one that I wouldn’t love to run into on one of those Baltimore streets and invite for coffee, some shared wisdom, and a laugh or two.

If you’re a younger reader who doesn’t know the joys of Anne Tyler, do yourself a favor now and read any one of her books. They are as timeless as they are perfect, and you will most likely want to read another.

Anne Tyler’s next book , Redhead by the Side of the Road, is due April 7, 2020 and is available for pre-order now. Many thanks to Vintage/Anchor Publicity for her photo.

Note: I always prefer book to movie, but you may enjoy several of Anne Tyler’s novels that been adapted for the screen. The Accidental Tourist, with William Hurt and Geena Davis, remains one of my favorite films of the 1980s. Breathing Lessons, with Joanne Woodward and James Garner (how could you go wrong with those two?) as Maggie and Ira, and Saint Maybe, featuring Mary Louise Parker and Blythe Danner, were both well done Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. All three were entertaining and respectful of the source. They are available on Amazon Prime via the links above.

26 thoughts on “Thank you, Anne Tyler

  1. Joy

    I have forwarded this book review and bio on to my book club members. Thanks for being the ever present writer/ researcher for us all.
    Miss ya’ my lady!! Joy

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Robin Cottrill

    You have perfectly expressed why Anne Tyler will always be my favorite author. My favorite is Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, followed closely by The Accidental Tourist, but there isn’t a book of hers that I don’t love. I own every book she’s written in hardback. I am so happy and excited to learn here that she has a new one coming out next year! She is a treasure.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Life...One Big Adventure

    Snap! I have also fallen for Anne Tyler in the last couple of years. A Spool of Blue Thread was recommended to me and I am now steadily working my way through her backlist. I really enjoy how she develops her characters although sometimes I feel like they need a good kick up the backside! Maybe that is the sign of a good writer – to be able to evoke those emotions. I finished Earthly Possessions last week, and even though I enjoyed it, I think I am going to have a little rest from her writing for a while. So much sadness and loss in what she writes. Happy reading! Mel

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Joy Ten

    Anne Tyler has been my secret passion since Accidental Tourist so It has been a sustainable one. Clock has been on my remember to check it out list since it has seen the shelves but I put it off. I wonder why????

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Angela

      Sometimes, we get distracted–so many books, so little time. But isn’t it great to know that you can return to her (or another treasured writer) at any time with the comfort you would find in an old and trusted friend?

      Like

  5. Pauline Jordan

    I REALLY LOVE ANNE TYLER – I can’t stress that enough. There was one critique who perfectly described how I feel, “Reading Anne Tyler is like falling in love.” I’ve been looking for other write-ups that capture how I feel about her works and I’m so glad I came upon your post. Oh and I’m so excited to know that she has a new book we can all look forward to. Thank you very much for this post, Angela!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. BookerTalk

    It’s many years since I last read aTyler novel. I dont know why there’s been this gap, it wasn’t a conscious decision. I did pick up A Spool of Blue Thread last week though so this could be the start of a return

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Anne Tyler! with a Guest Blog Post by Angela Bell | Happiness Between Tails by da-AL

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