January 2019: Anne Tyler

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January 2019: Anne Tyler

1sweetiegherkin
Dic 2, 2018, 11:02pm

New year, new author.

For this month, we'll be reading works by Anne Tyler. Have you read anything by her before? What do you plan on reading?

2sweetiegherkin
Dic 2, 2018, 11:04pm

Quick some time ago I read Back When We Were Grownups. I recall not being over the moon about this book, but it's been too many years past for me to remember why.

3Yells
Editado: Dic 5, 2018, 5:37pm

I've read a few of hers including, most recently, Digging to America. I find her hit or miss.

4BookConcierge
Dic 20, 2018, 8:38am

I've also read a few of hers, most recently Digging to America. Have to look at my TBR to see what I have on hand or sounds most interesting.

5overlycriticalelisa
Dic 20, 2018, 8:39pm

ooooh, i love her! she's totally not for everyone, though. the action is much more about what's going on in someone's head versus what's happening to drive time forward. her books are quiet and quirky. i'll look forward to what people think!

6sweetiegherkin
Dic 24, 2018, 12:58pm

>5 overlycriticalelisa: quiet and quirky can be good. depends on my mood, I think :)

7sweetiegherkin
Ene 3, 2019, 5:28pm

As I mentioned, I wasn't that thrilled with her book Back When We Were Grownups and honestly many of her other titles didn't sound all that interesting when I was looking at the reviews on here. >4 BookConcierge: 's review on LT of Digging to America made it sound like the most compelling choice, so I picked up the audiobook version today from the library. However, I do have another audiobook to finish first so it might another week or so before I begin.

I was surprised to learn Tyler had won a Pulitzer for Breathing Lessons as that one seemed to have the most critical reviews of all on LT. Every book its reader, I suppose.

8sweetiegherkin
Feb 1, 2019, 7:55pm

Today I finished listening to Digging to America and was surprised to like it more than I thought I would. However, I still didn't give it exactly a glowing review. I thought the love story/romance angle was a weird turn from the beginning part of the book about the adoption/parenting storyline. This second subplot started to take over the whole book, too, which is when I started feeling like there were almost two books contained within this one title.

Nevertheless, there were interesting musings about being an immigrant (or child of immigrants) in America, including how to assimilate or not assimilate, how much of your culture to keep and how much you should create your own traditions, etc. The characters were compelling and well-rounded.

Also, the audiobook narrator did an excellent job.

9Yells
Feb 2, 2019, 12:37am

>8 sweetiegherkin: I gave that one a middle-of-the-road three star. I liked the plot and I do think she writes well but you are right, there was a little too much going on for one story.

10sweetiegherkin
Feb 3, 2019, 6:33pm

>9 Yells: Yup, also gave it a 3-star rating. Didn't absolutely love it but didn't dislike it either. Just was missing that special spark.

11overlycriticalelisa
Feb 3, 2019, 8:43pm

now i'm curious enough to want to read it sooner =)

12BookConcierge
Editado: Jul 1, 11:08am


Vinegar Girl– Anne Tyler
Digital audio performed by Kirstin Potter
3***

This re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. Tyler gives us a Kate who is a modern day woman, with a job she likes (though she seems to always be in trouble with the parents of the toddlers she cares for), dedicated (though a bit resentful) to helping her widowed father run the household, uninterested in romance and intolerant of her younger sister Bunny’s obsessions with flirting and collecting young (and not-so-young) men’s hearts. Their hapless father is a university professor consumed by his research. He’s had the good fortune to find an excellent and talented graduate research assistant, but Pyotr’s visa is about to expire and he’ll be deported if he can’t find a way to stay in the US. So Dr Battista hatches a plan to have Kate marry Pyotr so he gets a green card.

I generally like Tyler’s novels that focus on relationships rather than plot. But this one felt a little stilted and “not-quite-right” to me. Perhaps it was the constraints of fitting into the Shakespeare tale’s basic premise of a harridan whose father is eager to get rid of her, and who is “tamed” (read beaten and starved into submission) by a handsome, virile man. Clearly that scenario just doesn’t work in today’s “Me-Too” culture. I think she did the best she could within the framework of Shakespeare’s tale, but it just didn’t quite work.

Still, there were some scenes where Tyler’s skill at exploring relationships shone through. And I did like the way that Pyotr was portrayed – not as the bully Petruchio, but more of a gentle, if determined, person. I also liked that Tyler turned Shakespeare’s women around; the original seems to paint younger sister Bianca as the “ideal” woman – pretty, compliant, obedient – and therefore much more desirable than Katherina. Here Bunny is more of an immature flirt, not really desirable, though she MAY grow up eventually.

Kirstin Potter does a fine job narrating the audiobook. She sets a good pace and the characters came to life via her performance.

13sweetiegherkin
Nov 1, 2019, 8:09am

>12 BookConcierge: Hmm, it's always neat to see authors do a retelling of a well-known story but you're 100% right that particular story is a tough pill to swallow. Especially in a modern setting. If you didn't really like this title that much, I don't think I would. Thanks for the review!

14BookConcierge
Editado: Jul 1, 11:07am


Clock Dance – Anne Tyler
Audiobook performed by Kimberly Farr
3.5***

The novel follows Willa Drake, her hopes, dreams, disappointments and joys – over 5 decades, from 1967 when she’s a schoolgirl trying to cope with a missing mom, to 2017, when she’s longing to become a grandmother and not sure she ever will be.

I like the way that Tyler explores the everyday drama of life. Not much happens – as far as a plot to carry the reader along – and yet much happens in terms of the character’s life. I don’t always relate to Tyler’s characters, and certainly there are many incidents in Willa’s life that I haven’t shared, but I often feel that I know these people; I recognize the scenarios among my friends and acquaintances if not in my own experience.

Willa frustrated me for much of this book. She was so passive that I wanted to shake her, although always a good person, kind-hearted and generous, obedient and responsible. Perhaps her role is life IS to be the “giver” but she needs to make that decision for herself, rather than just accept it. Ultimately, she understands much more about the situations she finds herself in than most people give her credit for. She is a confidante to those who need to confess, and she remains calm in a crisis. As wonderful as it is for those around her (for any of us) to have a Willa in their lives, I am pleased that she finally seems to be looking at what SHE needs, wants, desires from her life, and beginning to dare to assert herself.

Kimberly Farr does a marvelous job of narrating the audiobook. She set a good pace and had the skill to different the many characters.

15BookConcierge
Jul 1, 11:07am


The Accidental Tourist – Anne Tyler
4****

Macon Leary makes his living writing travel guides for “accidental tourists,” i.e. business travelers who are forced to leave the comforts of home and find themselves in unfamiliar territory. He gives advice on how to minimize the disturbance to one’s routine, in effect, carrying home with you so you never are lost.

But Macon is seriously lost even at home. He and his wife, Sarah, are unable to come together to process the death of their only child. Macon’s approach is to “keep everything like before” when it can’t possibly be that. Sarah can’t seem to find a way to push him off his home base, and winds up leaving.

But most of this has happened before the novel begins. The catalyst for Macon’s change is their dog, Edward, who has begun to bite and snarl. And so he finds himself at the Meow and Bow and meets the charmingly eccentric Muriel Pritchett, who offers her services as a dog trainer. Slowly, but surely, Muriel inserts herself into Macon’s life, and he slowly awakens, faces his pain and his mistakes, and begins to live again (or maybe for the first time).

Tyler excels at writing character-driven works that give us a glimpse of their lives in all their messy complexity and banal ordinariness. I love the scenes she creates that reveal so much of family dynamics; the Thanksgiving dinner is priceless, as is Rose’s wedding, and Christmas at Muriel’s mother’s house.

I saw the movie back in the late ‘80s, but never read the book. I’m glad I finally got around to it. Tyler has become one of my favorite authors.

16sweetiegherkin
Ago 3, 7:54pm

>15 BookConcierge: hmm, sounds interesting. I like the title