Ladder of Years

Ladder of Years

352 pages; Ballantine Books
You're on vacation with your family. All year, you've wondered—where did all the fun go? Your husband, who at one time couldn't keep his hands off you, no longer seems to give you even a second glance. Your teenage kids are in full-out disdain mode. Honestly, you don't think of yourself in the same way anymore either.You want—no, you need—a change, and it needs to be something radical.Enter Anne Tyler's novel Ladder of Years. While spending a week at the beach with her husband, three kids, siblings and assorted in-laws, 40-year-old Delia Grinstead, whose ego has shrunk to the size of a speck, goes for a stroll and suddenly envisions "a map of the entire East Coast from Nova Scotia to Florida," in which she is "a dot in motion, heading south." Without planning, or even a change of clothes, she is soon in a car heading inland, running away from home.She randomly alights in a dumpy small town, and gets a musty room in a boardinghouse owned by an over-sharing realtor named Belle. Anne Tyler's genius can make the drabbest of life's details seem simultaneously exotic and cozy. Here, Delia's tiny, badly lit rented room transforms into a soothing refuge where the outdoor light shining in on her bare-bones cot is, "a slant of warm gold." When she steps into the shower that night, "Grime and sweat and sunblock streamed off her, uncovering a whole new layer of skin..." She lands a position as a legal secretary—a role she'd never have thought she was up to in real life—and rebrands herself the self-reliant, utterly efficient Miss Grinstead. Time passes. Soon it's Thanksgiving, and still she's there. Miss Grinstead's competence and independence would never be questioned.So why does Delia's escape, which, after all, is not to Paris or to some Caribbean island, but just a short distance from her hometown, feel like such a seductive adventure? 
— Leigh Haber