Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler
There is no writer more adept than Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Tyler at depicting family relationships (the dynamics of which we are all familiar with whether we like it or not), and in this latest lovely story covering a period of fifty years, she demonstrates yet again her expertise as she portrays the daily skirmishes and defeats in the battleground of the marriage of 11 year old Willa Drake’s parents, before recounting Willa’s forays into Romance with all its future disappointments.
Willa has plans to be a linguist, until at twenty-one she meets The Love of Her Life Derek at college. It is 1977; Women’s Lib hasn’t properly taken hold yet and Derek is a master of persuasion – it seems like no time at all before her studies are ‘interrupted’ and she is married, becoming the mother of two sons: where has the time gone, not to mention her ambitions? Then at forty-one, she is a widow after Derek dies in a Road Rage incident. (He was the angry one).
Fast-forward to 2017: Willa is now sixty-one and living in Tucson, Arizona with her second husband Peter, a retired lawyer. They live next to the golf course because he loves the game. Her sons are not estranged from her exactly - they just don’t contact her often. Well, they live in different states and they have their own life, don’t they? But neither is married, and Willa would love to be a grandmother. Peter has never had children so he doesn’t understand her yearnings, nor is he interested: Golf is King!
And so it would remain, until Willa gets a phone call one night, asking her to ‘come help out’ in Baltimore, Maryland – her son’s EX-partner Denise (whom Willa has never heard of) has been shot in the leg, and her 9 year old daughter needs to be ‘babysat’. The caller is a neighbour who has to get to work; she cain’t be lookin’ after Cheryl and her dog Airplane no more, and Willa’s phone number was on Denise’s list: can Willa come soon?
And Willa does, for a variety of reasons, one of them being to finally meet someone from her son’s closed life whilst being seen to be doing a great kindness, and it will be a great break from the golf course - except that Denise and her frighteningly independent little daughter Cheryl are not what she expected at all: in fact the little community in which they live is quite different from anything she has experienced. She feels rejuvenated, needed and necessary, part of a network of people who depend on each other for help, company and friendship: Tucson and her golfing husband are becoming foggy memories.
Which means that sacrifices must be made, but will it be Willa (as usual) who makes them, or will she finally find enough gumption to live a different life? Ms Tyler never lets her readers down: every story and its characters are of the same superb quality – quality as reliable as the sunrise. What artistry! FIVE STARS