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The Tin Can Tree by Anne Tyler
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The Tin Can Tree (1965)

by Anne Tyler

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Photographs represent attempts to stop time, which is why we get out our cameras on Christmas morning, at birthday parties, at family reunions and when children and pets do cute things more than we do at funeral homes and in hospital rooms. Some moments we want to stop more than others.

Anne Tyler seems to have this thought in mind when she uses photography as a metaphor in one of her earliest novels, "The Tin Can Tree" (1965). James, the designated photographer, twice takes photos at gatherings of friends and family. One is soon after the shocking death of little Janie Rose, when smiles prove hard to find. Later he tries again, more successfully, after Simon, Janie Rose's runaway brother, is found and returns home.

Simon feels ignored and unloved after his sister's death. His mother, who hardly even gets out of her bed, ignores him, leaving him in the care of Joan, a young adult relative with a crush on James. Meanwhile Joan herself feels unloved and unappreciated, as James devotes himself to Ansel, his hypochondriac brother. So she runs away, too, later returning with hardly anyone even noticing she had left, finding the party for Simon, the young prodigal, already in progress.

Other times, both past and future, and other places, where the grass appears more green, have their appeal. Yet Tyler's familiar but timeless message seems to be that what we have in this moment's photograph, the place where we are and the people we still have with us, can be worth celebrating. ( )
  hardlyhardy | May 6, 2016 |
A great portrait of working people in small-town America in the 1960s. Didn't really move me, though. Tyler's usual observational skills are excellent, but there was too much minor detail for my tastes, and the story was rather slow-moving. Pleasant enough as a light read for odd moments. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
After the death of 6-year-old Janie Rose, the Pike family and those who are closest to them have to find a way to move on with their lives. Like most of Tyler's novels, the story is primarily focused on the characters and doesn't have a lot of action.

This isn't one of Tyler's best books, but it's a quick and simple read. As always, her characters are as quirky as they can possibly be, but she somehow always manages to keep them believable. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
Less engaging than other novels of hers I have read. ( )
  Litotes | Aug 27, 2015 |
In her second book , Anne Tyler again squeezes out emotional power from her characters.


"Bravest thing about people, Miss Joan, is how they go on loving mortal beings after finding out there's such a thing as dying.”
( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
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After the funeral James came straight home, to look after his brother.
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"He's the only one can help now. Not hot tea, not people circling round. Not even her own husband. Just her little boy." "I don't see how," said Joan. Missouri made an exasperated face. "You don't know," she told her. "You don't know how it would work out. Bravest thing about people, Miss Joan, is how they go on loving mortal beings after finding out there's such a thing as dying. Do I have to tell you that?" (end of chap. 5)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449911896, Paperback)

In the small town of Larksville, the Pike family is hopelessly out of step with the daily rhythms of life after the tragic, accidental death of six-year-old Janie Rose. Mrs. Pike seldom speaks, blaming herself, while Mr. Pike is forced to come out of his long, comfortable silence. Then there is ten-year-old Simon, who is suddenly without a baby sister -- and without understanding why she's gone.

Those closest to this shattered family must learn to comfort them -- and confront their own private shadows of hidden grief. If time cannot draw them out of the dark, then love may be their only hope....

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:10 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In the small town of Larksville, the Pike family is hopelessly out of step with the daily rhythms of life after the tragic, accidental death of six-year-old Janie Rose. Mrs. Pike seldom speaks, blaming herself, while Mr. Pike is forced to come out of his long, comfortable silence. Then there is ten-year-old Simon, who is suddenly without a baby sister -- and without understanding why she's gone.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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