I'm a big fan of Anne Tyler's finely-crafted observations about everyday life around Baltimore, but this recent addition to her long list of titles isn't one of her best. Towards the end of the book she writes (about one of the many main characters): 'She finished reading a novel she had started the evening before, even though she had trouble remembering the beginning and she wasn't all that interested in the end.'
And that is exactly the problem I had with this book: it just isn't very interesting. I never really cared what happened to anybody, which is perhaps just as well because very little does happen. And that cover blurb: 'Achingly truthful (does that even make sense?) ... achingly funny (no way: I may have sniggered once or twice in the 300-plus pages) ... so sad (not particularly). Isn't it about time these cover blurbs conformed to some kind of advertising standard?
Anne Tyler's speciality is capturing the little details that make people what they are, in drawing characters and reminding us what it means to be human. She writes good books about very ordinary situations, which is why she's one of the best writers around today. To write about everyday life and still keep us entertained is a rare skill indeed, but unfortunately this book just isn't entertaining enough. If you want to catch her at her best, I'd recommend something from earlier in her long career, such as Earthly Possessions or The Accidental Tourist.
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