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Ladder Of Years by Anne Tyler
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Ladder Of Years (original 1995; edition 1995)

by Anne Tyler

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2,462462,495 (3.7)1 / 129
Member:Sharkell
Title:Ladder Of Years
Authors:Anne Tyler
Info:Knopf (1995), Edition: 1st Trade Ed, Hardcover, 325 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2012
Rating:****
Tags:America

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Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler (1995)

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A Baltimore woman Delia Grinstead disappears from the Delaware shore. She really doesn't disappear, she intentionly walks away from her family and makes her self a new home in a small town. It was kind of a strange story and the ending even more so. ( )
  love2cook | Jun 11, 2016 |
I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed this story and these characters. At first I was annoyed with Delia for being so self-centered, for not attempting to truly understand her loved ones, for thinking that all they said and did was a reflection of their interactions with her. But gradually & subtly she, and we, learn more about their inner lives.

By the time the book ended, I *still* wasn't sure just how it was going to... even though I read carefully, fully absorbed, savoringly. And even when I learned the ending, I had to think about it. I'm still not sure it was the ending *I* wanted, but it's the best for these characters.*

And Tyler makes it all look effortless. The theme of second chances in love is expressed in so many different characters' lives, in so many different shapes & styles, it feels like we're reading several stories at once. In that way, it somewhat resembles a Maeve Binchy book - but it's even better.

Tyler is such a good writer. All the details she drops in with such studied casualness make it easy to feel as if one knows the characters as real people. A ginger jar in the B.B Dr's waiting room, the twins' dresses the color of Crest fluoride toothpaste, buying barley for gripe water (I never heard of it before, but from those two sentences I know I want to make it).

Walking with a two year-old, at his pace, Delia felt she had never seen Bay Borough in such detail -- every plastic cup lid wheeling along the sidewalk, every sparrow pecking tinfoil in the gutter." This detail was perfect for me, because I notice litter & such one of the first times I walk through a new place. And so that's one way Delia and I differ - she's more focused on what's in front, what's significant, and I (as Tyler has made apparent) need to spend less time looking down and focusing on the negativity.

I love that Delia, at age 40, discovered the library, and started borrowing books, instead of buying trashy romances. After a bit, well before she started reading classics, she isn't satisfied by the books she used to read. And when she is caught away and needs to buy a book, (because she finds TV exhausting, as do I) she buys "something serious and believable, about poor people in Maine." (Probably [b:The Beans of Egypt, Maine|263862|The Beans of Egypt, Maine|Carolyn Chute|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389141854s/263862.jpg|464869]**)

Btw, I'll save you some research (if you want, but I'll hide it in spoilers if you don't. Very early on we learn that Delia's name is Cordelia, and when a character asks if she's "her father's Cordelia" he is referring to the youngest daughter of King Lear. And the song Delia's father sang to her as a lullaby is something I'd consider entirely inappropriate, by Johnny Cash:
Delia's Gone

Delia, oh, Delia Delia all my life
If I hadn't have shot poor
Delia I'd have had her for my wife
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone

I went up to Memphis
And I met Delia there Found her in her parlor
And I tied to her chair
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone

She was low down and trifling
And she was cold and mean
Kind of evil make me want to Grab my sub machine
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone

First time I shot her I shot her in the side
Hard to watch her suffer
But with the second shot she died
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone

But jailer, oh, jailer Jailer,
I can't sleep 'Cause all around my bedside
I hear the patter of Delia's feet
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone
So if you woman's devilish
You can let her run
Or you… Full lyrics on Google Play


And probably one of my favorite passages (even though, if over-analyzed, it can certainly be rendered meaningless):
"Oh, the otherness of Delia's children never failed to entrance her! She considered it a sort of bonus gift -- a means of experiencing, up close, an entirely opposite way of being."

*Some readers' reviews question the ending. Do *not* read the spoiler if you have *any* intention of reading this book. Even after you've read it, think about the ending, come to your own conclusion, before reading what I figured out:
The idea is that she owes her first allegiance to her own family - and that she's come to realize they do need, and deserve, her. And that she does love them. Noah and Joel will be ok. Maybe even Ellie will come back - she was advised to by Delia, remember, when she confessed to D. that she wonders if she'd made a mistake, and that she missed them.

I imagine, based on clues in the text, that she'll visit Bay B. sometimes. And folks back there may visit her... after all, Nat did in his hour of need. She'll not just run away like she did the year before.

I think I was able to read carefully because I empathized. I am actually, embarrassingly, on my third marriage. I'm a slow learner - so I wanted to pay attention to this story and learn how Delia made her choice.


** Well, researching that cleared up a confusion that's been lurking in the back of my mind. [b:The Beans of Egypt, Maine|263862|The Beans of Egypt, Maine|Carolyn Chute|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389141854s/263862.jpg|464869] is *not* [b:The Bean Trees|30868|The Bean Trees (Greer Family, #1)|Barbara Kingsolver|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1362981087s/30868.jpg|1095121], though they do both have something to do with rural poverty. Yay for me figuring that out." ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
I couldn't remember the title or author of this work until I read the description, but the story has always stuck with me, because it was such an interesting fantasy--the idea that a woman could walk away from her ordinary adult life and become someone else. Probably a fantasy many of us have in difficult times. I gave it four stars rather than five because I was disappointed in the ending. I wanted the character to make some kind of change in her life, even though the ending was probably more realistic than mine would have been. ( )
  fromthecomfychair | Feb 11, 2016 |
The more I read by Anne Tyler, the more I appreciate her. She usually writes about ordinary people in strange situations, often with just one main character whose life she observes and expresses with such fine observation that they seem sometimes more real than those around them.

This particular novel features Delia, a forty-year-old mother of three, who seems reasonably content in her conventional life, married to a doctor who's somewhat older than she is. Out of the blue - although we know this will happen, due to the prologue of the book - Delia walks away from the family on a beach holiday, and doesn't return. She gets a lift to another town, and begins a new life there.

The book gives us her situation shortly before she does her vanishing act, and then takes us through the next year where she becomes independent for the first time in her life. Of course the plot is outrageous, yet at the time, reading the book, it seems totally believable.

Nothing very exciting happens - it rarely does in Tyler's work - yet it was a thoroughly enjoyable book, one which I kept reading almost compulsively. I had no idea how it would end. Although I'd have liked a few more details tidied up in the conclusion - Tyler often leaves things hanging somewhat - I found the ending reasonably satisfying. Definitely one to re-read in a few years. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
Loved the idea and the frailty of characters, but was very much disappointed by the end. Although it does seem logical, really. I just hoped for a little more courage, I suppose.
Quote: Delia wondered how humans could bear to live in a world where the passage of time held so much power. ( )
  flydodofly | Aug 22, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anne Tylerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cieplińska, HalinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Etsuko, NakanoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flothuis, MeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frick-Gerke, ChristineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hallén, KerstinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herrman, BjørnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Medeiros, JacquelineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pignatti, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porte, SabineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rifbjerg, IngeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soler, Carlos MillaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yanḳovits, ShoshanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Delaware State Police announced early today that Cordelia F. Grinstead, wife of a Roland Park physician, has been reported missing while on holiday with her family in Bethany Beach.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
BALTIMORE WOMAN DISAPPEARS DURING FAMILY VACATION, declares the headline. Forty-year-old Delia Grinstead is last seen strolling down the Delaware shore, wearing nothing more than a bathing suit and carrying a beach tote with five hundred dollars tucked inside. To her husband and three almost-grown children, she has vanished without trace or reason. But for Delia, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family's edges, "walking away from it all" is not a premeditated act but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting, and unimagined life. . . .
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804113475, Mass Market Paperback)

"UTTERLY COMPELLING . . . WONDERFULLY SATISFYING . . . VIRTUALLY FLAWLESS."
--Chicago Tribune

BALTIMORE WOMAN DISAPPEARS DURING FAMILY VACATION, declares the headline. Forty-year-old Delia Grinstead is last seen strolling down the Delaware shore, wearing nothing more than a bathing suit and carrying a beach tote with five hundred dollars tucked inside. To her husband and three almost-grown children, she has vanished without trace or reason. But for Delia, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family's edges, "walking away from it all" is not a premeditated act but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting, and unimagined life. . . .

"TYLER DETAILS DELIA'S ADVENTURE WITH GREAT SKILL. . . . As so often in her earlier fiction, [she] creates distinct characters caught in poignantly funny situations. . . . Tyler writes with a clarity that makes the commonplace seem fresh and the pathetic touching."
--The New York Times

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:59 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A runaway wife leaves one domestic situation, only to fall into another. She is Delia Grinstead, 40, of Baltimore, the wife of a physician and mother of three. One day she decides she's had enough of being invisible, moves to another town and gets herself a job--caring for a boy whose mother has abandoned the family. By the author of Saint Maybe.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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