When I begin an Anne Tyler book, it feels like I am entering the scene, not as a participant but rather an observer who can't be seen by the characters. And the scene is so often a family scene. She is a master of writing family relationships. The book spans four generations of the Whitshank family, though not in a linear way. After a fair bit of the book, we go back to the first generation in the house, and then move back to the present.
The house is a part of this family. And oh, how I wanted to see it - to walk its rooms, to see the "pocket doors" which are in every room but the kitchen, to sit on the front porch which is as deep as a room, and as wide as the whole house.
Under the shelter of the trees the front of the house didn't get the morning sun, but that just made the deep, shady porch seem homier.Can't you just see it?
Not only is it beautifully and carefully described, but we learn early on that the older Mr. Whitshank built the house for someone else. He designed every bit of it and often argued the owners out of some decision they had made about it because he knew best. And this reader is sure that he did. What a marvelous thing to build a house, but on the other hand such a sad thing if the house isn't yours. Happily, the family didn't like where they lived and the Whitshanks were ultimately able to live there.
This is also a story of making it in America, of the poor person making good and wanting more for his children. Sometimes the children accept this responsibility of being "more" than the parent, and sometimes they grow up and become what the parent is rather than what he wants his child to be.
And as in Rosamunde Pilcher's The Shell Seekers, we see that families do not have to be "blood" to be "real".
Okay, I haven't told you much of the storyline, but as I've written before, I personally don't like to know too much before I read a book. I don't like to know what's coming next. I want to move along the way the author meant the reader to. I do hope this book report might encourage you to at least give it a try.
There is a lovely quote relating to my new-found love of washing dishes.
Mrs. Whitshank was talking about dishwashing machines. She just didn't see the need, she was saying. She said, "Why, some of my nicest conversations have been over a sinkful of dishes!"Hazel is still washing them, pretty much whenever she comes. Here's a picture from last week. The sun was streaming in so Pop wore the hat Campbell chose for him.
And yesterday, though I didn't get a picture, she did the whole sinkful all by herself!