Every Anne Tyler novel is like a delicious new dessert. It’s so good that I immediately want a second helping. But overindulging would spoil the pleasure. So I put the leftovers away, knowing I’ll be back before midnight to raid the fridge.
Clock Dance is reminiscent of her 1995 novel Ladder of Years. Each follows a married woman who becomes entangled with a family of strangers. Their motives grow partly out of unsatisfactory circumstances in their present lives. As new relationships take root, the women find fulfillment that their own families cannot provide.
Who but Anne Tyler could make you believe in Willa Drake, who drops everything and flies clear across the country to take care of her son’s ex-girlfriend? She pulls off this improbable scenario as she does in all her stories, deftly sketching each character from a vague outline into a whole person, until you become as involved with them as Willa herself. Before you know it, you’ve made friends with the ex-girlfriend, her nine-year-old daughter, their dog, and everyone in the neighborhood.
Better critics than I have observed how beautifully Anne Tyler shapes her characters. In them, you recognize virtues and flaws found in people everywhere. And as ordinary as they are, you care about them because you know the author does.
Tyler bakes her desserts with love and perception. Just talking about her treats makes me hungry. Please excuse me while I go raid the bookshelf.