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Clock Dance


Clock Dance

Anne Tyler writes heartwarming and sometimes heart-wrenching novels. In her latest effort, CLOCK DANCE, readers meet Willa Drake, an 11-year-old girl who lives an ordinary life in 1967 Pennsylvania. A shy child who always defers to her companions, she has a six-year-old sister, an unpredictable mother with anger issues, and an underwhelming father who is not moved by much. We follow Willa to her junior year in college, where she has a scholarship that she hopes will lead to a career. But in 1977, she meets a boy who knocks her off her feet and, after some fussing, is talked into marrying him. As a result, she abandons her studies and moves to California. She does enroll in college again, but must drop out when she becomes pregnant with her first child.

Part Two finds Willa married to a high-powered man and the mother of two teenage boys. One of her sons is an athlete and a great source of pride to his father. The other is a moody boy who wants to drop out of high school to take a cross-country trip to “meet the people.” Willa is just going along in her uneventful life when a road-rage accident kills her husband. As a young bewildered widow, she tries to adjust to her new status in life. Sadly, her boys are not a source of solace in her time of need. They are in touch, but the family is not close.

"CLOCK DANCE is a riveting and wholesome story of family, relationships, humanity and self-discovery.... [Anne Tyler] is at the top of her writing game in this outstanding novel."

By 1997, Willa is remarried to another successful man and remains the get-along-with-it-all person she has always been. Then one day she gets a phone call from a stranger who tells her that her son’s ex-girlfriend, Denise, has been shot in a drive-by, and someone has to come to take care of the young woman, Denise’s nine-year-old daughter (who is not Willa’s grandchild), and the family’s dog, Airplane. A little befuddled, Willa thinks, Marriage was often a matter of dexterity, which she bases on her own experiences.

Peter, Willa’s second husband, is a self-absorbed individual who resents finding himself in Baltimore taking care of a woman he barely knows and her outgoing daughter. He does not hide his feelings and wants to go home. Since Denise has a coterie of friendly neighbors and friends, he sees no reason why Willa insists her services are required for an extended period of time. Willa finds herself feeling needed and affectionately becoming closer and closer to Denise and the little girl. She even has taken it upon herself to become the official dog walker; both she and Airplane have a regular, mutually satisfying relationship.

Finally, Peter has had enough and goes home in a disgruntled mood. He does not let Willa off easily and constantly berates her for not flying back with him. By the end of the book, this strategy forces Willa to think of herself in a whole new light. She longs to be a grandmother but realizes that this does not seem to be in the cards. Her sons are not married, and while they do have girlfriends, the relationships do not appear to be traditional ones. So far, Denise’s daughter, who thinks of Willa as a grandmother, is the closest she may ever get to becoming one.

CLOCK DANCE is a riveting and wholesome story of family, relationships, humanity and self-discovery. As always, Anne Tyler’s prose is pristine with not one word too many in any given scene. She is at the top of her writing game in this outstanding novel.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on July 12, 2018

Clock Dance
by Anne Tyler

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0525563024
  • ISBN-13: 9780525563020