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scenes from family life covering a 20 year time frame - humorous and wise
on 30 March 2012
Ian Bedlow, the Saint Maybe of the title, atones for his part in the death of his brother and sister-in-law by brining up the children who have been orphaned by the deaths.
As with other Anne Tyler novels, there is here a full measure of the interest of everyday life, focussed in this case on the brining up of children, in all its humour and its pathos and its idiosyncracies with scenes of family life spread over a 20 year time frame (humour and idiosyncracy here notably in the persons of the 'foreigners' who particularly enliven the retirement of Ian's father-in-law: apparently Anne Tyler is married to a foreigner. Though there's also a memorable scene in which a character refers to the Church of the Second Chance as the Church of the Second Rate).
I enjoyed reading this more than some of Anne Tyler's other novels (notably the Clock Winder) and less than some others (notably Digging to America and The Accidental Tourist). For me the question for each of her novels is how persuasive I've found the basic plot that gives rise to the episodes of everyday life - in this case, yes I can believe Ian Bedlow could play that part in the deaths, and yes he would want to atone, and just maybe this would come in large life-determining part by joining the Church of the Second Chance...