I've wanted to read an Anne Tyler novel for years. For whatever reason, other books have always jumped ahead on the every expanding "to be read" list. I skipped my book club's pick for October which presented an opportunity to select a title. I landed on Ladder of Years after seeing a recommendation by Hellogiggles.com (if you don't already read it, then you MUST start reading Hellogiggles.com). The book was published in 1995.
Tyler is a master storyteller of the domestic tale. She can focus in on the tiniest details because her word selection is exquisite. Delia Grinstead just turned 40. She's married to an older man, and the mother to three young adults. Her father recently passed away. The story starts with a delightful, flirty scene set in a grocery store. A younger man approaches Delia, and asks Delia to step in as his date. Delia is not accustomed to any kind of attention so she is immediately weary (yet smitten) by the man. It's a breezy opening scene that sets the right tone for the novel.
As the family prepares for its annual vacation at a rental summer home, Delia pursue a demure relationship with the younger man which ends in a comic confrontation at dinner time (of course!). I won't spoil the scene, but let's just say her family doesn't believe for a moment that Delia would stray from her marriage. The family heads for the vacation, and Delia proceeds to walk home from the beach...but she keeps going...catching a ride with a local handy man...she keeps going. She leaves her family to start a new life.
I enjoyed the cast of crazy characters and the snapshot look at the intimate scenes from a marriage. The novel is funny (and absurd), heartbreaking, and sometimes unbelievable. Tyler weaves the characters around Delia. There are hints of King Lear throughout including the name of the main character who's also the youngest daughter and she's tossed out like King Lear (although she does the tossing).