I’m a long-time fan of Anne Tyler, so when I saw that she had a new book out, I was thrilled. The reviews were wonderful. “Delightfully zany,” said the Washington Post. “Inspired grace of her prose,” said USA Today. “As comforting as home,” said the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
I agree with the last. Clock Dance was comforting. But comforting can also be slow. Willa Drake, Tyler’s protagonist, is oddly simplistic in the way she thinks, talks, and acts. This adds to a lack of urgency in the book. There are flashbacks at the start, lots of filling in about the heroine’s past, with Willa going along, going along, going along. It was only when the present kicked in that I came to feel that Willa was someone to admire.
The premise is simple. Woman leads a pleasant enough life, but one that lacks fulfillment, until she makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to fly cross country to care for a woman her son used to date. That woman has a daughter, a dog, and a neighborhood of warm, caring friends with whom Willa bonds – all the while juggling the needs of her increasingly disgruntled second husband.
I love reading about a good-hearted person, and Willa Drake is that. Attuned to satisfying the needs of other, she too often ignores her own needs. Sound familiar? It did to me. Aren’t many women like this? In time, she has a gentle awakening, at which point I pushed a slow fist in the air.
There is nothing suspenseful or riveting or edge-of-the-chair tense about this book. Like a savory stew, it cooks for a long time, developing an increasingly pleasant scent, before finally serving up a satisfying meal.