Anne Tyler is one of those authors that I have never read and rather shied away from due to the “bestseller”, book-mill feel that she gives me. This book didn’t do a whole lot to dispel that impression. What finally got me to pick up one of Anne Tyler’s novels is the rather lame fact that this particular title was written in 2001, which happens to be the year of my Pick-a-Year challenge, and this was available on audio when I needed a new audio book (very poor reasoning, I now realize). About the best I can say for the experience is challenge met.
There is very little by way of plot; rather the novel focuses on Rebecca, who married a man some years her senior, who died only six years into her marriage, leaving her to raise four daughters and try to keep the family business, an event and catering service run in their aging Baltimore Victorian home, from going under. The novel is a series of flashbacks and present, filled with Rebecca’s clamorous, often whiny, family. There is scarcely a likable character among them, aside from Rebecca.
Despite liking Rebecca, I find her character very static. I also find it difficult to believe that anyone can have such an inept family and so jealous of one another. Finally, there is a perfectly good man right in front of Rebecca all along, and she never sees him all through the book-the plotting just makes no sense at all to me.
I did enjoy the sections dealing with Rebecca’s event and catering business, as one one my dreams is to run a lodge, so those did a lot to rescue the book for me. On an unrelated note, the audio is a little confusing at times, because the voices of the women are not always clearly distinguishable from one another. This is one I could have passed over without any regrets, and I do not think I’ll rush to read another Anne Tyler, as I found the book rather campy and a bit melodramatic.