French Braid: A novel (Hardcover)
Anne Tyler has just written her 24th novel. Each of her books are about families in Baltimore and each story is different, because each family is separate. Tyler remains popular after all these years because each novel is unique and each is a new adventure in reading. We, the readers, can never predict what will happen.
French Braid, Tyler's latest novel is about the Garrett family. The mother, Mercy, is an aspiring artist. The father, Robin, runs the family plumbing supply store. In the course of the story we meet the three Garrett children; Alice, Lily and David and watch them mature and eventually become parents themselves. Near the start of the book, the Garretts take their first and only family vacation. This vacation demonstrates the family dynamics and shows us each member's personalities. Their trip is to a lake. At the lake, Mercy swims briefly and then returns to their cabin to paint. Robin stays at the water's edge, visiting with another vacationing father. Alice swims a while and then unpacks their things and starts fixing a meal. Lily, who is a young teen, meets a teen-aged boy and spends most of the week hanging out with him and his friends. David, the youngest child is fearful and afraid of the water. He refuses to let his father teach him to swim. He spends the trip by himself, playing with the sand at the water's edge. They are all separate, while being together.
Because Mercy wants to paint , she convinces Robin to rent a nearby shed that she can turn into her studio. In her studio, Mercy paints what she calls "house" paintings. These are very abstract paintings of a house detailing only one item in the painting, like a door knob, or a planted pot, etc. She sells only a few of these over the years. She eventually spends so much time in her studio that she is only staying a few nights a week at home with Robin. He is hurt, but tries to keep it secret from their now grown kids. Of course, the kids know. By now, the children have married and have homes of their own. Lily marries twice, and Alice once. They each name a baby Robin, after their Dad. They are called Robin-the-boy and Robin-the-girl. David becomes a teacher and marries the school nurse.
To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Robin plans a family party. He has to trick Mercy into attending. She had even forgotten that it was a special date. This reader was surprised when Robin's party was a success.
Anne Tyler has a delightfully quiet sense of humor and it is evident in French Braid.
Thie book is a study in how a family can remain a family even though over the generations it is filled with distances, secrets, and silences. The book ends with a statement from David's wife, "So this is how it works, this is what families do for each other-- hide a few uncomfortable truths, allow a few self deceptions, little kindnesses".
Once again, Anne Tyler has shown us the life of a family. This family's story begins in the 1950's and goes up to the present date. And, once again, she has not disappointed the reader. We can only wait and look forward to her next book in a few years.— Sue Domis
April 2022 Indie Next List
“When Serena Drew thinks she sees her cousin in the train station as she returns from her partner’s parents, she avoids him, setting off a cascade of questions. Anne Tyler reminds us that in families, the ripples are crimped in forever.”
— Kayleen Rohrer, InkLink Books, East Troy, WI
NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning author—a funny, joyful, brilliantly perceptive journey deep into one Baltimore family’s foibles, from a boyfriend with a red Chevy in the 1950s up to a longed-for reunion with a grandchild in our pandemic present.
The Garretts take their first and last family vacation in the summer of 1959. They hardly ever leave home, but in some ways they have never been farther apart. Mercy has trouble resisting the siren call of her aspirations to be a painter, which means less time keeping house for her husband, Robin. Their teenage daughters, steady Alice and boy-crazy Lily, could not have less in common. Their youngest, David, is already intent on escaping his family's orbit, for reasons none of them understand. Yet, as these lives advance across decades, the Garretts' influences on one another ripple ineffably but unmistakably through each generation.
Full of heartbreak and hilarity, French Braid is classic Anne Tyler: a stirring, uncannily insightful novel of tremendous warmth and humor that illuminates the kindnesses and cruelties of our daily lives, the impossibility of breaking free from those who love us, and how close—yet how unknowable—every family is to itself.
About the Author
ANNE TYLER was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of more than twenty novels. Her twentieth novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2015. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1989. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
“French Braid is a moving meditation on the passage of time . . . Five decades into her career, one gets the sense that Tyler is no longer quite so interested in the details. Instead, French Braid offers something subtler and finer, the long view on family . . . For all its charm, French Braid is a quietly subversive novel, tackling fundamental assumptions about womanhood, motherhood and female aging.” —Jennifer Haigh, New York Times Book Review (cover)
“Brilliant . . . Captivating . . . The rich melody of French Braid offers the comfort of a beloved hymn . . . In novel after novel, Tyler catches the mingled strains of affection and exasperation that tie a family together, the love that persists somewhere between laughing and singing.” —Ron Charles, Washington Post
“If Anne Tyler isn’t the best writer in the world, who is?” —BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
“Tyler’s gift is that each story, each character is distinct, even as she builds on themes from one book to the next.” — NPR/All Things Considered
“French Braid proves once again that nobody can write about small family moments quite like she can.” —Real Simple
“Few writers are so widely loved and respected as the creator of ‘family novels,’ a genre Tyler has perfected . . . Her fans will be delighted . . . This is Tyler at her most Tyler-ish.” —The Times (London)
“Lovely . . . The characters’ hopes and struggles are relatable, and the novel shines with Tyler’s signature compassion and comfort.” —TIME
“Any Tyler book is a gift . . . Thoroughly enjoyable . . . Funny, poignant, generous, not shying away from death and disappointment but never doomy or overwrought, it suggests there’s always new light to be shed, whatever the situation, with just another turn of the prism.” —Observer
“The wonder of French Braid is the easygoing fluidity with which Tyler jumps and floats between characters and decades to create what in the end is a deftly crafted family portrait that spans some 70 years . . . We read in fascination.” —Christian Science Monitor
“French Braid is a family saga of uncommon subtlety and grace, a novel which shows that, at 80, Anne Tyler is still amongst the very best writers around.” —The Spectator
“Tender and acute . . . French Braid is a novel full of compassion for the human condition by a writer confident enough not to pin everything down and to trust her story to work its quiet magic.” —Financial Times
“Full of piercing observation.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Subtle and powerful . . . A multi-layered and masterly exercise in sympathy and understanding.” —Times Literary Supplement
“A beautiful novel of family life as it unfolds over the years . . . There are many authors today who try to emulate her technique, but none of them comes close to the lightness of touch, the accuracy of her ear, or the profundity of her vision . . . Perhaps [her novels] will eventually come to be seen as one vast, panoramic portrait of life in one particular place, at one particular time, as accurate and resonant as similar series by Balzac or Trollope.” —Daily Mail
“Enchanting . . . Though centered in Baltimore, the story nonetheless reaches out beyond it, just as the characters, deceivingly simple, reveal truths about life that are anything but.” —Washington City Paper
“Lushly imagined, psychologically intricate, virtually inhalable . . . At every leap, Tyler balances gracefully between tenderness and piquant humor, her insights into human nature luminous. Tyler is a phenomenon, each of her novels feels fresh and incisive, and this charming family tale will be honey for her fans.” —Booklist (starred)
“Well-crafted . . . Affecting . . . As always, Tyler offers both comfort and surprise.” —Publishers Weekly
“Entrancing . . . Nobody writes better about families than Anne Tyler . . . She has the lightest touch . . . Tyler has that rare ability to do much with what seems little, to bring the ordinary and usually unregarded lives of ordinary people to life and make them matter.” —The Scotsman
“More lovely work from Tyler, still vital and creative . . . In her 24th novel, Tyler once again unravels the tangled threads of family life. This familiar subject always seems fresh in her hands because Tyler draws her characters and their interactions in such specific and revealing detail . . . [She] understands that the domestic world can contain the universe.” —Kirkus Reviews