Sunday 24 September 2023

Happy Fall!

It’s the first weekend of fall, and the weather could not have been better... bright and comfortable, not too hot or too cold, enough breeze to make things interesting… and the leaves are starting to change colour, proving once again that this is the best time of the year (at least in my opinion).

I’m not going to write a whole lot about the book I read last week, as we will be discussing it at our book club meeting tomorrow night, but I wanted to at least let you know my initial thoughts.  We will be discussing Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, a recent work by this award-winning American novelist.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything by her… maybe A Spool of Blue Thread for book club many years ago?  Anyway, this novel tells the story of Willa Drake, a 61-year old woman whose life is summed up in three short sections:  1967, when she and her friend Sonya try to sell as many chocolate bars as possible to raise money for their camp, but they have a falling out, clearly marking a rite of passage for 11-year-old Willa;  1977, when she returns home from college with her boyfriend, Derek, who has just proposed and wants to marry that summer, before he moves to California for his new job, a move that would leave Willa’s degree in languages incomplete; 1997, when a tragic accident occurs; and 2017, when Willa and her second husband, Peter, receive a call from a neighbour of her oldest son’s ex-girlfriend, Denise, asking if Willa could come and take care of Denise’s 9-year-old daughter, Cheryl, while Denise is in the hospital.  This is the point at which the story actually begins, which is quite revealing about Willa’s life so far.  Raised by a mother whose dramatic disappearances and reappearances dotted her life, Willa’s goal for most of her childhood and adulthood centred around trying to live as unobtrusively as possible and trying not to get noticed.  But when she receives a call from Callie, a neighbour who is looking after Cheryl, asking if she could come and take over this responsibility, Willa immediately accepts, hauling Peter along on the plane-ride from Tuscon to Baltimore.  But her reluctance to leave and return to her own life, even as Denise is discharged from the hospital and is recovering, indicates that perhaps Willa’s life-goals are changing.  I don’t want to say any more about the plot of this quietly inspiring novel, but I really enjoyed it.  I loved the way that, like Willa, it crept along, seemingly without making a mark, until suddenly you realize that it’s had a huge impact and changed the way you view your life.  I want to keep using the word “quietly”, but surely there are other words to mean the same thing:  calmly, patiently, discreetly, plainly… none of them are quite as perfect a word as “quietly”, meaning something that is calm and also discreet, that is patient and plain but also impactful, just unobtrusively so.  I think I need to read earlier works by this author, because all the reviews seem to think that this book, while well-written, is not as good as her others, in particular The Accidental Tourist.  Anyway, if you are looking for a domestic fiction that features a quietly inspiring heroine, I would recommend this novel, but I would caution you to read it slowly and savour it, as, like a delicious stew, it may seem simple but when eaten slowly, its complex flavours come shining through.

That’s all for today.  Enjoy the glorious weather!

Bye for now…

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