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A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler

A Patchwork Planet (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Anne Tyler

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2,085413,170 (3.73)62
Title:A Patchwork Planet
Authors:Anne Tyler
Info:Alfred A. Knopf (1998), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 287 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read in 2012

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A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler (1998)



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I picked this up for a funny reason. I am writing a novel with a “passive” main character and heard that by Anne Tyler had done this masterfully in A Patchwork Planet. So I was looking for her technique – the problem is she does it so seamlessly that I was hardly aware of any technique – or I was so absorbed in the novel that I forgot to analyze the writing.
Her protagonist, Barnaby is a misfit (his wealthy family would say a loser) but an endearing one who works for a service company called “Rent-a-Back” and struggles to get his life together. He progresses at a snail’s pace but we find ourselves rooting for his little victories and despairing over any rejections. ( )
  CindaMac | Mar 26, 2017 |
Barnaby Gaitlin grew up in a family that was of the "old Baltimore" world, but he wasn't living in that style. Instead he was working for "Rent-a-Back" doing odd jobs for seniors who needed things moved or organized or just needed help with chores. This job earned him a wage that kept the rent paid on his rented room and money to go visit his daughter on visitation day.

He had gotten into this situation because of his "habit" of breaking and entering peoples' homes. He didn't do it to steal so much as he liked to read other peoples' mail, look in their photo albums and some times take a small souvenir or two, back when he was a teenager. His parents paid off his "victims" and still hold it over his head.

His ex-wife had remarried and would be just as happy if he no longer showed up for visitation as she had moved up the food chain and wanted to forget that part of her life. His daughter, Opal, wasn't quite sure what to make of it all.

On one of his trips to see his daughter, he meets a woman in the train station. She seems steady, nice and interested in him. They develop a relationship that seems comfortable, but takes a turn when a few bumps in the road come along. The smooth cruise gets a little rough.

Trust, belief in yourself and others, and relationships and how they can change are all part of this story. Written in an engaging style that draws you along the path through Barnaby's world, with all the twists and turns in life.

Anne Tyler's writing style is very enjoyable and her story lines keep you wanting to read more. ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Jun 23, 2016 |
thanks bookcrossing for expanding my horizons - I'd never have picked this up on my own, but I'm sure glad BC caused it to come into my hands - charming, insightful, a quick read but the ideas will stay with you...
( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
In this, her fourteenth novel--and one of her most endearing--Anne Tyler tells the story of a lovable loser who's trying to get his life in order. Barnaby Gaitlin has been in trouble ever since adolescence. He had this habit of breaking into other people's houses ...
  waltonlibrary | Jan 27, 2016 |
Beautiful observations, gentle, wry humour, and some pathos in this typical Tyler novel.

Barnaby has grown out of his wild teenage years, helped by the trust of his grandfather, and now works for a company that does odd jobs for the elderly. His wife has left him, and he finds his family stressful.

When he meets the organised, trustworthy and attractive Sophia, he feels as if she is some kind of angel, sent to turn him into a worthy human being who will fit in better with other people.

There's not much more plot than that; the enjoyment of the book is in Barnaby's observations and musings. The story is told in the first person from his perspective. I did find the ending slightly inconclusive, as one does with Anne Tyler's books. I also found some of the reflections on the inevitability of old age to be rather depressing. But overall, I thought it a very good book. Recommended. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
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Anne Tylerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mossel, BabetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In loving memory of my husband, Taghi Modarressi
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I am a man you can trust, is how my customers view me.
Back in Baltimore’s golden age, when the streetcars were still running and downtown was still the place to go and we had four top-notch department stores all on the same one block: Hutzler’s, Hochschild’s, Stewart’s, and Hecht’s... (Rent-A-Back client)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449003981, Paperback)

Barnaby Gaitlin is one of Anne Tyler's most promising unpromising characters. At 30, he has yet to graduate from college, is already divorced, and is used to defeat. His mother thrives on reminding him of his adolescent delinquency and debt to his family, and even his daughter is fed up with his fecklessness. Still, attuned as he is to "the normal quota for misfortune," Barney is one of the star employees of Baltimore's Rent-a-Back, Inc., which pays him an hourly wage to help old people (and one young agoraphobe) run errands and sort out their basements and attics. Anne Tyler makes you admire most of these mothball eccentrics (though they're far from idealized) and hope that they can stave off nursing homes and death. There is, for example, "the unstoppable little black grandma whose children phoned us on an emergency basis whenever she threatened to overdo." And then there's Barnaby's new girlfriend's aunt, who will eventually accuse him of theft--"Over her forearm she carried a Yorkshire terrier, neatly folded like a waiter's napkin. 'This is my doorbell,' she said, thrusting him toward me. 'I'd never have known you were out here if not for Tatters.'" These people are wonderful creations, but their lives are more brittle than cuddly, Barnaby knows better than to think of them as friends, because they'll only die on him. Yet his job offers at least glimpses of roots and affection. Helping an old lady set up her Christmas tree (on New Year's Eve!) gives him the chance to hang a singular ornament--a snowflake "pancake-sized, slightly crumpled, snipped from gift wrap so old that the Santas were smoking cigarettes." And Barnaby himself is sharp and impatient at painful--and painfully funny--family dinners, apparently unable to keep his finger off the auto-self-destruct button every time his life improves. As much as his superb creator, he is a poet of disappointment, resignation, and minute transformation. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:36 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A lovable loser tries to get his life in order. He is Barnaby Gaitlin, 30, the black sheep of a rich Baltimore family, ex-juvenile delinquent who specialized in housebreaking for kicks. He works for Rent-a-Back, moving furniture for old people, and dreams of having a future.… (more)

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