I’ve just finished reading Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years, and I’m not sure I liked it. The ending was really weak, which might in a way cast a negative spell on what went on before it … I think I will put it like this: Ladder of Years is an interesting novel, even if it isn’t very well composed.
Ladder of Years is the story of 40-year-old Cordelia Grinstead, who walks away from her family during a vacation at the beech. She has had enough of her husband (to whom she has been married to for 20 years) and she seems to have had enough, as well, of her three complaining almost-grown children and her two squabbling sisters, not to mention the workmen forever traipsing through her house. So, Delia leaves. She runs away to a nearby small town and starts over as the unattached Miss Grinstead. In fairly short order, though, she finds she’s accumulated a web of connections in her new community, including her landlady, the couple who run the diner, and the boarder from across the hall. Then, when she takes a new job, caring for a young boy whose mother has left the family, she comes to realize that she may have fled the pull of one domestic spell only to fall into another one.
I am very interested in all this domestic ordinariness of everyday life, which I believe to be a central theme in all Tyler’s novels, and I think Tyler has a clever way of thinking and writing about it. But Delia’s story gets too unfocused in the end. And I wonder, did she gain any new insight through her “walking-away”, or is she in the end just back at the exact same spot she started from? & also: did I gain any new perspective on married life? Unfortunately I think my answer has to be – no, not this time.