Clock Dance

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

I have read everything I could find of Anne Tyler's work ever since Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was assigned reading in college, and I've never regretted reading an Anne Tyler book. That still holds true as I read this latest book of her, Clock Dance.

Willa Drake leads a rather simple, somewhat plain life.  She can easily recall the most unusual or extraordinary events in her life because there are so few of them. Then she gets a phone call that her son's ex-girlfriend, Denise, has been shot and needs Willa's help - with a number of things, but mostly looking after the ex-girlfriend's daughter, Cheryl.

Willa isn't sure why Denise would have her phone number handy that a neighbor would be calling, or why she should even consider getting involved, but she does.  She packs up herself and her husband and they head to Baltimore to help Denise and Cheryl, nearly strangers, because she'd been called to action. Willa tries to add in that it makes for a good excuse to see her son, Sean, who has been a stranger to Willa for many years.

I'm not quite sure how to describe what it's like reading an Anne Tyler book to someone who's never done it.  It's like carving a pumpkin.  It's easy to do. It's a pretty common thing - for Americans anyway. And you have a rather good, though general, idea of what it will be like when you're through.  But the intricacies, and finesse make all the difference between an expertly, beautifully carved pumpkin and an almost generic smiley or scowling jack-o-lantern.

I worked with a Shakespeare company for many years and we often talked about the fact that Shakespeare wrote about what it was like to be human perhaps better than any other writer. But I think Anne Tyler might be in the running for that title. Shakespeare gives us characters who are larger than life - sometimes kings or gods - to remind us of what it means to be human, while Tyler gives us Willa's and Pearl's (Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant) and Macon's (The Accidental Tourist).  Tyler gives us characters who are smaller than life... characters who typically fly under the radar of extraordinary-ness but reach up and out and beyond their 'station' in life to do something extraordinary for a change (even if that something isn't earth-shattering or revelatory to the general public).

Tyler creates real people in a real world and makes it extraordinary by giving some people a renewed strength which promises hope for humanity Tyler is a delight to read.

Reading this, after reading some Fredrik Backman (the Swedish author of A Man Called Ove among other best-sellers), I can see a definite similarity in style and story.  Backman also writes about ordinary people stepping out.  But Tyler's been doing it for 22 years, and with much more consistency,

The title of the book, Clock Dance, is certainly symbolic and plays on a couple of different levels.  We have Willa's past, as we're brought through the moments in her life that were extraordinary. And then we have the dance of time as Willa considers her future and what she will do with it.  And then I also wonder if Tyler herself is teasing us by reminding us that we're all dancing with the clock and that we should make the best of it.

Looking for a good book? Clock Dance by Anne Tyler is a motivating look at Willa - an 'everyman' for the modern reader.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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I really enjoyed this book, Willa's desire for something more and a more connected family is supplemented by Denise's accident. She found what she was looking for in a rather bizarre plea for help from her son's ex-girlfriend.  I don't think many people in her situation would have done the same as it was a really wild experience.
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This was a character-heavy/driven book with great dialogue. Sort of quiet and understated. It spanned decades in the life of the main character in the later half of the 20th century and into the 21st.
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I loved this book but  I’ve loved all of Anne Tyler’s book except for Amateur Marriage which broke my heart.  My favorite probably is Earthly Possessions and a number of times, I’d find similarities between the hapless, people-pleasing female protagonists.  Wilma, even her name implies a passive timid woman.  She is simply not capable of making a decision on her own or even taking an action that wouldn’t please her husband, through two husbands!

She bumbles her way into a situation completely across the country and becomes part of a community of quirky likable people, pretending that the precocious nine-year-old Cheryl is her granddaughter-for-a-day.  And as the days pass, her ability to speak and critically think for herself grows, until the end when she gives into what her husband adamantly requests of her, against her own needs and desires.  

In some of Tyler’s earlier books the likable hapless woman continues through her circumstances to the end without any sign of character development, which used to frustrate me no end.  I’d want to say, wake up and smell the roses!!  But real life is like that, there’s no guarantee that people take the opportunity to grow or change, and I knew that as I approached the end, but I’m not going to tell you what happens.  You have to read it for yourself!
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I love Anne Tyler and the affection she shows for her characters. Clock Dance was no exception. I loved getting to know Willa, Cheryl and everyone else in Clock Dance.
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Sadly, this is not a book I can recommend. I couldn’t find anything endearing about the main character. I wanted to like her but couldn’t. The plot was drawn out and the ending was flat and abrupt. #ebook #kindle
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I have been reading Anne Tyler’s books for years and Clock Dance is like a warm hug.  Her quirky characters are flawed but lovable.  Willa’s character  was developed throughout—as a young girl, abandoned by her own mother for a time, to an older women who learns to finally fly on her own.
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Never got past the first several chapters which is quite unusual for me. Didn't like the style of writing, the characters or the overall climate of the book. I know others raved about it, but I just couldn't work up any interest.
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When Willa announces to her family that she is going to marry Derek "and that's that", you just know that this is an Anne Tyler novel.  Tyler plops her trademarkable characters into another interesting story.
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CLOCK DANCE by Anne Tyler spans fifty years and tells the life story of Willa Drake, from the time of being a fifth grader (1967) and dealing with her mother's abrupt absences then to college years and engagement (1977), married life and motherhood (1997) and into the present day. The most recently occurring section of the book is set in Baltimore where Willa travels (leaving the home her new husband chose near Tucson) to help care for Cheryl, the nine year-old daughter of Denise, a former girlfriend to one of Willa's sons although he is not Cheryl's father. And that sentence should give you a sense of Willa's character -- seemingly filled with good intentions, trying to help, and, above all, to not offend or impose on anyone. In many ways, CLOCK DANCE is the story of Willa's awakening, a coming of age in her 60's. It is definitely a character driven work with a cast of unique and warm-hearted neighbors; Doctor Bob, Detective Dave, spurned Hal, young Sir Joe, and friendly Callie to name a few.

CLOCK DANCE is a LibraryReads choice for July and the Barnes & Noble's Summer Book Club selection (with most in-store discussions set for Aug. 8). This title received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. Anne Tyler has won the Pulitzer Prize for her earlier writing (Breathing Lessons) and her previous novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

Links in live post:
http://libraryreads.org/july-2018-libraryreads/ 
http://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/press-release/barnes-noble-announces-anne-tylers-clock-dance-second-national-book-club-selection/
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This is Tyler's best book in decades, in my humble opinion. It reminds me a lot of my favorites by her -- The Accidental Tourist and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Willa Drake's life journey will enchant you, and her growth will resonate. It's a little bit predictable, since fans are certain to know where most of Tyler's books are set, but that doesn't detract from its charm. A warmhearted, funny, and lovely story of finding fulfillment in human connection.
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I love anything that Anne Tyler writes! I enjoyed reading about Willa who at age 61 finally decided that she would live her life the way she wanted. I would have liked the book to continue as I felt there were a few loose ends.
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Willa’s life hasn’t been extraordinary, but it also hasn’t been uneventful either. When she was 11, her mother’s sudden, but thankfully temporary disappearance, was an experience marked Willa’s young life. When she was in college, she married her sweetheart and abandoned her education to raise a family. When she was only 41, her husband died in a tragic car accident. Now, 20 years later, one phone call from a total stranger is about to change Willa’s life once again. 

Once again, Anne Tyler brings us a late-stage, coming-of-age story of a woman who you might have seen dozens of time on the street, but who you might never strike up a conversation with, and more the pity. Because if you did get to know her, maybe she might be very different than you might have thought. What Tyler likes to do in her novels is draw people who surprise us, and sometimes themselves along the way. In fact, although Willa is the center of attention here, almost all of Tyler’s characters in this novel start out to be seemingly one thing and then, turn towards being something else. Yes, there are some more predictable characters here, such as Willa’s second husband, who never seems to stray from being self-centered; but in general, most of Tyler’s characters have a tendency to do unlikely things, and at the most unexpected times. 

This is one of the attractions of Tyler’s books, and while we’ve come to expect this from these novels, Tyler succeeds in keeping from falling into any type of formula in her books. This is a good thing, because formulaic novels can be boring. Yes, they say that there are only a couple handfuls of essential plots in the world, but if an author can find a way to frame their stories to include some type of twist, they will continue to entice readers to grab their next work. For example, in Tyler’s 2015 novel “A Spool of Blue Thread,” she tells the story backwards, starting from the most contemporary part, and then moving backwards in time (until Tyler decided she’d gone far enough). Here, the three short pieces of Willa’s earlier life – at age 11, at age 21 and once again at age 41 – leave many gaps in her narrative when the story jumps to Willa aged 61. This, of course, was one of the major points of this novel. That being, that you never know which of the things you experience during your younger days will be the ones that end up shaping your later life. The other major point of this novel is that you may have taken the wrong thing away from any or all those formative experiences, but it’s never too late to realize the lessons you learned back then, might have been the wrong one.

Another thing that I always enjoy in Tyler’s novels is her very open and straight-forward prose style. It always feels like I’m listening to a friend tell me a story, it feels that welcoming and honest. While Tyler’s prose may feel simple on the surface, that friendly feeling is also underlaid with just enough of a poetic touch to make things feel alive and colorful. Add to this the way Tyler uses her language to set the atmosphere in her novels, and you have a winning combination. Mind you, Tyler’s stories aren’t always up-beat and this one has a somewhat gray tone to it that seems to prevail. It is almost like Willa is living in a type of fog, but as the story progresses, that fog starts to clear, leading up to a very concise ending that allows the reader to imagine what will happen to Willa and the other characters after the last page, which is exactly the way I like novels to end. 

I should add here that even with all this praise, I didn’t find this novel to be as rich as her last one, “A Spool of Blue Thread.” As mentioned above, before we get to the main story of Willa at age 61, there are the three snippets from her past. These were wonderful but, I think she should have given us a little bit more of that, maybe even just one more to introduce us to her second husband, so we could understand better her later relationship with her sons. Also, perhaps in lieu of another snippet (or in addition to one), she could have done a bit more to developed the metaphor of the Saguaro cactus that appears on some of the covers. That said, who can resist sitting down with an old friend and hearing a captivating story that’s both delightfully told and heartwarming? That's why I still can very warmly recommend this novel and give it four and a half stars out of five.
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Willa lived her life meekly. She loved her father, but her boisterous mother mystified her. From the time she was young she adored her calm, gentle father. Throughout her life, the men she selected to be in her life - including her own sons - were much more controlling and volatile. Her first husband was killed in an instance of road rage. Her second husband was domineering and controlling, even selfish in his lack of consideration for her. The women in her life baffle her; her sister grows in an opposite direction from Willa, and her mother remain's a mystery all of her life.

We meet Willa in stages; first when she is 11, and her mother has abandoned her family for some adventure from which she returns after a few days. Willa is content to take care of her father and younger sister, and is relieved when her mother returns home, and yet not. Throughout the progression of her life Willa is portrayed as meek and mild mannered, even-tempered. She steps away from conflict, accepting that others are more dominant and she allows her will to be bent to suit their needs. Until one day, when the course of her life changes with a phone call from a stranger to come and help the ex-girlfriend and young daughter of her distant son. Willa is compelled to go; she is secretly thrilled with an opportunity to disrupt the sameness of her life and daily routines.

This is the story of a small life lived in big steps, and about the opportunities for self-discovery, self-realization and the chance to change ones path. As a fan of Anne Tyler's previous books, I was thrilled with the chance to receive this preview copy in advance from Net Galley. It is a book I will be recommending for my monthly book group to read.
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Willa Drake is only eleven when her mother suddenly disappears and leaves her two daughters and husband to themselves. Since their father is a good man but incapable of managing the household, Willa has to take over the mother’s role. Ten years later, she has almost finished her studies and dreams of a career in linguistics when her boy-friend proposes and expects her to give up her studies. Another twenty years later, a preventable accident kills her husband and leaves her alone with their two sons. When she is already sixty, again somebody makes a decision which has a deep impact on her life. A neighbour of Denise calls her – the ex-girl-friend of her son has been shot in the leg and now her 9-year-old daughter Cheryl is left to her own devices in Baltimore. Willa decides that she is needed even though she neither knows Denise nor Cheryl and heads to Baltimore accompanied by her second husband Peter. What she finds there is what she has been longing for for years: somebody who is grateful for what she does and a group of people who are, on the one hand, lonesome, but on the other hand, take care of each other.

In the first part of Anne Tyler’s novel, we only get short episodes, decisive moments which will make a change in Willa’s life: the mother’s disappearance, the proposal and the death of her husband. What they have in common is not only the impact on Willa, but first and foremost the fact that she is on a position where she has no power over her own life, it is others who make a decision for her without consulting her and without taking her own opinion into consideration. First her parents, then her husbands and she never openly opposes them, but gives in by far too soon. The second part is quite different since here, we accompany Willa travelling to Baltimore and taking care of Cheryl and Denise. Even though she was always there for her husbands and sons, Willa does not really seem to be loved and appreciated by them. It is those strangers that give her the impression of being important and needed and what she does is not taken for granted. 

Willa is not a perfect woman, she also has her flaws and seems to be rather ordinary in many ways: the life she leads is the one many thousands of women of her generation lead, her view of herself and her place in the world is also shared by millions. She regrets the weak bonds she has with her sister and also with her sons when they are grown up and hardly stay in contact with their mother. However, this does not have to be like this and there is always the chance of escape as Anne Tyler shows. It is not the big sudden decision, but a long and slow process which also has some steps backwards and isn’t easy at all. It is hard not to like the protagonist, even though at times I had the strong urge to push her a bit to stand up for herself, but this would have been completely against her character. 

“Clock dance” is a novel narrated in a very lively way. The dialogues as well as Willa’s thoughts seem to be absolutely authentic and easy to imagine. The characters are realistic in the way they are modelled, none of them is really outstanding from the crowd, but this makes them this interesting: Anne Tyler captures those particular aspects, the traits easily to be overlooked that make them loveable and important to someone. Her style of writing is smooth and makes you just rush through the novel. It is one of those novel which do not need the big event or outstanding character but captivates the reader through its authenticity which shows that the average person can make a change.
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Very easy read and pleasant. This is the second book I have read by this author. She has the ability to take ordinary people and get beneath the surface.
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Well written in Anne Tyler's signature style.  Clock Dance is  a sweet story regarding the complications of life -- the things we must accept, and those that we are able to choose.
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Extremely well written. Having lived near Baltimore, MD for most of my adult life, I could easily relate to the characters in this book.  I grew to love the situations and people.  A must read if you are an Anne Tyler fan!
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Like many Anne Tyler books, "Clock Dance" is quietly satisfying, making mundane events and ordinary people strangely interesting or at least comforting. This book reminded me in some ways of my favorite Anne Tyler book, "Ladder of Years." She excels in creating characters that are quirky, but not to the point of being annoying. She writes about them so lovingly that it's hard not to feel a fondness for them and their foibles. Although this was not a book I just couldn't wait to get back to, I found it an enjoyable read, mostly because Ms. Tyler writes so beautifully. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the advance e-copy of this book.
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Anne Tyler has created another irresistible read about a loosely knit community in Baltimore. Willa Drake has never fully fit into her life, first as wife and mother to difficult men, then as widow and finally as remarried senior citizen. For reasons unknown, she travels from her home in Phoenix to care for the child of her son’s ex-girlfriend who is hospitalized. In Baltimore she finds a purpose she did not realize she lacked. This is a charming addition to Tyler’s body of work and a must read for her fans.
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