Willa Drake frustrated me. I wanted to yell at her. I wanted to yell that she needed to stand up for herself. I wanted to yell that she deserved to be treated better. I didn’t like Willa Drake and it’s when you feel this strongly about a character that you are reminded what a great author Anne Tyler is.
I couldn’t put down Tyler’s latest, Clock Dance. Willa wasn’t the only frustrating character. I realized that one of the reasons I was so frustrated by them–and there were plenty to be irked by in this book–was because I know people just like them. Tyler writes real people. Her characters are people I’ve known, people similar to those in my own life. Relatable and real is what makes Tyler’s books so appealing.
Characters don’t have to be charming to make for a great story. The frustration I felt made me invest in Willa’s decisions, made me hope that she would make better choices for herself, that she might finally find happiness. Willa suffered abuse and loss throughout her life, taking it all passively. We are shown snapshots throughout Willa’s life, each capturing telling events that illuminate why Willa is who she is. Finally, after seeing Willa in 1967, 1977, and 1997, we are taken to 2017 where Willa makes a decision to fly across the country to take care of a mother and her little girl who Willa doesn’t even know. To most, if not all readers, this idea is a crazy one. But it also allows the reader to begin to grasp that meek and resigned Willa has been habitually desperate her whole life. Desperate for true connection and acceptance.
Up until the final paragraph, I wasn’t sure Tyler was going to give Willa the ending that she deserved. Although an abrupt conclusion (I would have loved another chapter or two), all of my frustration receded knowing that maybe there was hope for Willa after all.
This was my second Anne Tyler novel (the first reviewed here) and I can’t wait to read more by her. I love how easy her novels are to read, how invested I become in not the story but in the characters. Typically when I can’t put down a book it is because I want to know what happens next in the story. But with Tyler’s novels, it is because I want to know what happens next to the characters.
A huge thank you to Penguin Random House First to Read for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
Published by Knopf July 10, 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction
Where I read: On my iPad in a cozy chair in my bedroom
Stephenie’s Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars