Everything in Micah Mortimer’s life is in the best order imaginable. He has developed his routines of the house chores, of running every morning at exactly the same time before having a shower and eating breakfast. His company “Tech Hermit” provides enough for himself to survive and he is independent in every way. But then one day, his life somehow runs out of control. First, an 18-year-old boy shows up at his door claiming to be his son and then, his girlfriend Cass leaves him unexpectedly. He is not well equipped to deal with this interruption of his routines and certainly not when everybody suddenly seems to be meddling with his love life.
Anne Tyler is a wonderful narrator and thus, also in her most recent novel I got exactly what I had expected. “Redhead by the Side of the Road” is the story of a very peculiar man who seems somehow to go unnoticed when you cross him in the street, who is totally reliable, but also quite predictable. In his Baltimore apartment block, he takes care of everything that needs to be tended to and he seems to be totally ok with his life as he has established it. He shows little interest in matters outside his cocoon and would go on in this way forever if he weren’t interrupted. The author shows that crucial moment, when suddenly everything is put to a test, is questioned and what seems to be perfectly fine turns out to be quite the opposite. He is confronted with the decisions he has made, has to take others’ perspectives and question himself and his habits.
Micah’s obsession with tidiness and order is well explained by the contrast with his chaotic sisters. What the reader sees immediately is that not only are they quite messy and tumultuous in certain ways, but they also seem to be alive. In comparison, Micah is well organised but somehow also lifeless. Nevertheless, they love and support him and would like him to have a fulfilled partnership, their teasing is their way of showing fondness, however, he is not yet at the point of recognising this. It needs another confrontation with his past to fully understand what goes wrong.
He is not a character you immediately sympathise with, but I adored his direct and somehow naive way of addressing people, especially when Brink appears and maybe it is exactly this somehow innocent straightforwardness that makes the boy open up to him.
It is not a novel that goes totally deep with hidden meanings and messages, but without any doubt, it advocates for those nondescript, unimposing characters who have to say much more than you’d expect and it also holds the mirror up to the reader to question what is important in life, where to set the priorities and most of all, to ask yourself if you’re really happy. A moving story that I totally adored to read.
Willa Drake is only eleven when her mother suddenly disappears and leaves her two daughters and husband to themselves. Since their father is a good man but incapable of managing the household, Willa has to take over the mother’s role. Ten years later, she has almost finished her studies and dreams of a career in linguistics when her boy-friend proposes and expects her to give up her studies. Another twenty years later, a preventable accident kills her husband and leaves her alone with their two sons. When she is already sixty, again somebody makes a decision which has a deep impact on her life. A neighbour of Denise calls her – the ex-girl-friend of her son has been shot in the leg and now her 9-year-old daughter Cheryl is left to her own devices in Baltimore. Willa decides that she is needed even though she neither knows Denise nor Cheryl and heads to Baltimore accompanied by her second husband Peter. What she finds there is what she has been longing for for years: somebody who is grateful for what she does and a group of people who are, on the one hand, lonesome, but on the other hand, take care of each other.
In the first part of Anne Tyler’s novel, we only get short episodes, decisive moments which will make a change in Willa’s life: the mother’s disappearance, the proposal and the death of her husband. What they have in common is not only the impact on Willa, but first and foremost the fact that she is on a position where she has no power over her own life, it is others who make a decision for her without consulting her and without taking her own opinion into consideration. First her parents, then her husbands and she never openly opposes them, but gives in by far too soon. The second part is quite different since here, we accompany Willa travelling to Baltimore and taking care of Cheryl and Denise. Even though she was always there for her husbands and sons, Willa does not really seem to be loved and appreciated by them. It is those strangers that give her the impression of being important and needed and what she does is not taken for granted.
Willa is not a perfect woman, she also has her flaws and seems to be rather ordinary in many ways: the life she leads is the one many thousands of women of her generation lead, her view of herself and her place in the world is also shared by millions. She regrets the weak bonds she has with her sister and also with her sons when they are grown up and hardly stay in contact with their mother. However, this does not have to be like this and there is always the chance of escape as Anne Tyler shows. It is not the big sudden decision, but a long and slow process which also has some steps backwards and isn’t easy at all. It is hard not to like the protagonist, even though at times I had the strong urge to push her a bit to stand up for herself, but this would have been completely against her character.
“Clock dance” is a novel narrated in a very lively way. The dialogues as well as Willa’s thoughts seem to be absolutely authentic and easy to imagine. The characters are realistic in the way they are modelled, none of them is really outstanding from the crowd, but this makes them this interesting: Anne Tyler captures those particular aspects, the traits easily to be overlooked that make them lovable and important to someone. Her style of writing is smooth and makes you just rush through the novel. It is one of those novel which do not need the big event or outstanding character but captivates the reader through its authenticity which shows that the average person can make a change.
Im Haushalt der Battistas läuft vieles anders als in anderen Häusern. Dr. Battista hat wenig Sinn für überflüssige Dinge wie Essen, die Spülmaschine wird aus und wieder eingeräumt, warum den Umweg über den Küchenschrank nehmen? Die Töchter muss er alleine erziehen, wobei das eher in der Hand der Natur liegt, lieber verkriecht er sich in sein Labor. Entsprechend fristet Kate mit 29 ein jungfernhaftes Leben mit einem Job im Kindergarten, den sie hasst, der aber nach Abbruch des Studiums die einzige Alternative war. Bunny ist mit ihren 15 Jahren das genaue Gegenteil. Das eingespielte Trio lebt nach festen Routinen bis diese einen herben Schlag erhalten: Dr. Battistas Assistent droht ausgewiesen und somit die letzten Jahre Forschung zunichte gemacht zu werden. Da wäre es dich passend, wenn Pjotr einfach Kate heiraten könnte. Völlig überraschend für den Vater ist die zukünftige Braut ist wenig angetan von der Idee, den schrägen Polen zu ehelichen.
Anne Tylers Roman ist eine Hommage an William Shakespeares “ Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung“ und im Ehrenjahr des großen Dichters erschienen. Der Autorin gelingt es den leichten Ton der Komödie auch in ihrem Buch aufzugreifen. Mit viel Situationskomik und schrulligen Charakteren ist das Lesen ein wahres Vergnügen. Der durchaus etwas stereotypisch geratene Forscher, dem der Alltag zuwider ist, die störrische junge Frau, die mit ihrer direkten Art aneckt, aber durch ihre intelligenten Anmerkungen viel Spaß macht, das etwas dumpfe junge Mädchen und zuletzt der sprachlich eingeschränkte Einwanderer – in der Tat ein Kuriosenkabinett. Das alles in einem Plot ohne große Schnörkel, aber mit kleinen Verwicklungen, die für reichlich Turbulenzen sorgen und so ein herrlich unterhaltsames Lustspiel ergeben.
Was ist von den Remakes von Shakespeares Stücken zu halten? Der große Dichter hat ja nun selbst seine Plots übernommen, Generationen und Jahrhunderte überdauernde Motive gewählt, die gerade deshalb auch heute noch populär sind. Ein bekanntes Sujet zu transformieren und zu adaptieren ist keine leichte Sache, wenn es originell und überzeugend werden soll. Anne Tyler ist das gelungen. Sie kann unterhalten, das Setting passt in die heutige Zeit, ist in sich stimmig und transportiert meines Erachtens den Geist Shakespeares auf wunderbare Weise: das Volk kam ins Theater, um unterhalten zu werden. Anne Tyler bietet ein Buch an und der Leser wird unterhalten.