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

by Anne Tyler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,301392,759 (3.71)1 / 112
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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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
I never know how an Anne Tyler novel is going to end. She has a way of trailing infinite possibilities behind her advancing prose. This is part of what keeps me reading her books. Usually I'm content enough when I arrive at her final destination. However, the ending to this one infuriated me, causing acute pain and a sense of betrayal. The pain and betrayal came from having liked the book a lot up until then, and from my sympathy toward the main character. Sometimes as a reader one sees things quite differently from how the writer sees those same things. Unfortunately, sometimes this difference isn't fully revealed until the very end of a book. But I don't want to think about it for the length of time required to write any more details, nor do I want to hide the review because of spoilers.

In the case of this rating, ending trumps all: 2 stars for the ending, 4 stars for the rest of the book. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
Cordelia Grinstead is a wife and mother to three children. Her husband Sam, a doctor, recently suffered a heart attack, (though Delia, as she is commonly known, refers to it as chest pains). At or about the same time her father died after Delia had cared for him for some time in her own home.
Her children are all teenagers and have become more independent and less reliant on their mother. Delia’s husband has become distant and less attentive. Delia has becoming unsure of her role as a mother, a wife and in the world in general.
While on the annual family holiday with her family and her sisters, Eliza and Linda and the latter’s children, Delia asks a young man who was working on the holiday home to drive her to a place she knows nothing of. She asks the young man to stop at a small town and there she begins a new life with only the possessions she is wearing and what is within her tote bag.
On the surface, The Ladder of Years appears to be a run of the mill novel about a middle aged woman going through the proverbial mid-life crisis. This appearance seems justified when you throw stroppy, mumbling, uncommunicative teenagers and an inattentive older husband in to the mix.
However, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Anne Tyler has written a novel that defies cliché, stereotype and one’s preconceived ideas of what a woman’s mid-life crisis looks like. A clever choice on Anne Tyler’s part was to write the book in the third person. It would have been easier to have written the novel in the first person and allow us the reader to get a better and easier understanding of Delia’s motives and thoughts on her behaviour. But writing the novel in the third person puts the reader at a slight distance from Delia so making it harder to empathize or sympathize with her. It makes the reader have to work that bit harder in getting to understand Delia and her reasoning and in this process makes the reading of the novel that much more satisfying.
I also believe that writing in the third person allows many male readers to follow Delia’s character without feelings of being uncomfortable in their male skin than had the novel been written in the first person. It is possible that many male readers would have found it uncomfortable or off putting to follow the character had they had access to her inner thoughts and feelings. By writing in the third person male readers are allowed to keep their distance and not made to feel that they inhabit a female persona.
All the characters within The Ladder of Years are rounded three dimensional people and as a reader I felt that I knew and understood each of the novel’s inhabitants by the end of the book. This knowing and understanding is from the perspective of a friend of the family and not as a family member. By this I mean that as much as I believed I knew the character’s motives and reasons for what they did and how they lived I still couldn’t be sure I was getting the full picture. This I believe was intentional on the author’s part. I believe that Anne Tyler was trying to communicate that we never fully know someone else even when they are family. There are times in our lives when we feel like we are an outsider within our own family group looking in through a window that becomes more opaque as time moves on.
Anne Tyler’s novel is a well crafted moving and at times funny novel that will not disappoint any reader, even the male of the species.

Number of pages – 326
Sex scenes – none
Profanity – none
Genre – drama/fiction ( )
  Kitscot | Sep 9, 2013 |
One of the lines near the end of the book reads, "It was ridiculous of her to feel so wounded." These few words are basically your entire plot, but the idea of the book wasn't what bothered me, and the flighty, unthinking characters weren't a hindrance to my reading. What stopped me from desperately clinging to this book in an effort to consume the whole thing at once was, in fact, the whole thing itself. The writing is mediocre, the characters are annoying and the plot is a good concept but hardly goes anywhere, even as it comes full circle in its own way. I don't mind reading books that are more like life than fiction, I don't mind reading about someone wanting to make a fresh start for whatever reason, but I do want a reason. The entire book is centered around a mother who leaves her family one day, just because she wanted to walk, then she just decided to get into a car going somewhere, then she decided to get out, then she decided to get an apartment, then a job... All in a few hours of each other, almost all in her bathing suit and a bathrobe. If she had been running from abuse or some other desperate situation, I could have understood, but to simply have a wishy-washy feeling of disliking the way the kids and husband brush her off (that is what older teens do, for the most part, it's made very clear in the book) and then discover you are miles away and you just don't happen to be turning around? I felt like the non-committal events were the author's way of justifying why everything was happening, though they were also ignoring what was happening.

To be fair, the entire book so mirrors the family that you almost want to call it a stroke of genius. Who doesn't remember the description of someone in their own family? Someone who doesn't care. Who can't be bothered to keep the consistency of the plot or characters? The book itself. I can't call this book bad and I can't call it frustrating. I find myself at a total loss to call it anything other than what it is. A book that is twenty chapters long and contains text of some variety or another. ( )
  mirrani | Apr 6, 2013 |
"Baltimore Woman Disappears During Family Vacation" declares the newspaper headline. Forty-year-old Cordelia Grinstead is last seen strolling along a Delaware beach, wearing nothing more than a bathing suit and carrying a beach tote with five hundred dollars tucked inside. To her husband, Sam and three almost-grown children, she has vanished without trace or reason. However, for Delia, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around the edge of her own family, "walking away from it all" is not a premeditated act but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting and unencumbered life.

In a nearby town, Delia reinvents herself - getting her first job, finding her first place, and buying her first business suit. She becomes a serious and independent-minded woman with no ties. However, soon after Delia begins her exciting, unencumbered life, fresh responsibilities inevitably accumulate.

I really enjoyed this story. It drew me in completely and I was curious to see how the story would eventually turn out for all the characters. I give this book an A+! and look forward to reading more books by Anne Tyler. ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Dec 29, 2012 |
On a summer vacation with her doctor husband and almost grown children, Delia Grinstead begins a walk on the beach...and just keeps on walking out of their lives. She hitches a ride to a town called Bay Borough where she knows no one and begins her life over again. She chooses to live a spartan life, to divulge little information about herself to others, and to develop a daily/weekly routine that suits her just fine.

I believe she walked away because she felt she had become invisible to her family, putting their needs and desires before her own (like many mothers). In her new role she had only to think about herself. Slowly, unwittingly she begins to have a circle of friends: people recognize her and include her in their activities.

When her only daughter invites Delia to her wedding, Delia accepts and returns to her home, not knowing how her husband, her children, her relatives, and old friends will accept her. However, she falls back into the old familiar patterns without hesitation.

I optimistically think Delia will now have two bodies of people who care about her, and those two bodies will enrich each other. : )
  Kelslynn | Aug 14, 2012 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:38 -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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