For those of you who, like me, have been reading Anne Tyler since the dawn of time, Clock Dance reads very true to form. It is the story of Willa Drake, a classic Tyler heroine – you probably know what I mean. She’s warm-hearted and smart but doesn’t get the chance to shine because of the people around her taking centre stage. Perhaps she’s avoiding being anything like her actress mother whose tempestuous moods made life difficult during her childhood.
Then there’s her marriage to business-school success story Derek, which interrupts Willa finishing her degree. He’s the alpha male type, so Willa settles into raising her two sons, who she loves desperately. She would love grandchildren, but they seem more and more unlikely – besides she hardly ever sees her sons.
By 2017, Willa has recently moved to Arizona with second husband, golf-mad Peter, and finds herself at a loose end. A phone call from a stranger sees her heading to Baltimore to take care of the nine-year-old daughter of her eldest son’s ex-girlfriend. This is crazy, according to Peter, they’re no relation, after all. And well, yes, he’s probably right, but suddenly, Willa is thrown into the world of Dorcas Street. Here, all the neighbours know each other and Willa is soon swept up into their lives. It’s a classic Tyler quirky scenario, filled with interesting characters that have all the odd idiosyncrasies that make them both ordinary and real.
Reading Anne Tyler for me is like putting on an old comfortable coat – kind of cosy and familiar, but still of impeccable quality. In Clock Dance, I loved the quietly humorous interactions, the way she throws people together and lets you see what happens while moving towards a satisfying ending. Four stars from me.