From the inimitable Anne Tyler, a rich and compelling novel about a mismatched marriage—and its consequences, spanning three generations.
They seemed like the perfect couple—young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment Pauline, a stranger to the Polish Eastern Avenue neighborhood of Baltimore (though she lived only twenty minutes away), walked into his mother’s grocery store, Michael was smitten. And in the heat of World War II fervor, they are propelled into a hasty wedding. But they never should have married.
Pauline, impulsive, impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, judgmental, proceeds deliberately. While other young marrieds, equally ignorant at the start, seemed to grow more seasoned, Pauline and Michael remain amateurs. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. Even when they find themselves, almost thirty years later, loving, instant parents to a little grandson named Pagan, whom they rescue from Haight-Ashbury, they still cannot bridge their deep-rooted differences. Flighty Pauline clings to the notion that the rifts can always be patched. To the unyielding Michael, they become unbearable.
From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counterculture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayered apparel of later years, Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision that every page brings smiles of recognition. Throughout, as each of the competing voices bears witness, we are drawn ever more fully into the complex entanglements of family life in this wise, embracing, and deeply perceptive novel.
Anne Tyler, an American novelist, is also an author of short stories and is a literary critic. She has had 22 novels published, being cited in literary publications as creating fully developed characters and commended for her accurate attention to detail. Some of her more well-known novels are: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, and A Spool of Blue Thread. She has been compared to John Updike, Jane Austin, and Eudora Welty.
Tyler was born in Minneapolis Minnesota, as the oldest of four children to a chemist Dad and a social worker Mother. They were Quakers who lived in a series of Quaker communes, one being formed by conscientious objectors, as Anne was age 7 through 11. Her practical, hands on education was supplemented by correspondence school. Her first short stories, she told to herself under the covers at 3 years of age, to try to get sleepy. Her favorite book was The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, and had a profound influence on her ability to show "how the years flowed by, people altered, and nothing could ever stay the same". Her early perception of changes over time appear and reappear in Tyler's novels, just as her favorite book, The Little House, appears in her first novel.
Tyler considered herself to be an outsider in public schools, but also attributed that same feeling as having been a valuable asset in her writing success. Her other credit is given to a former high school English teacher, Phillis Peacock. Seven years after high school, Tyler dedicated her first published novel to "Mrs. Peacock, for everything you've done".
Tyler has won many literary awards including a Pulitzer. She remains closely associated with the city of Baltimore, Maryland, her home since 1967, and is the location used in many of her books. Her husband died in 1997, and their two daughters have gone on to careers in the arts.