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Ladder Of Years Hardcover – April 11, 1995

302 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At 40, Delia Grinstead seems more likely to have an attack of anxiety, or of whimsy, than to become a runaway wife. Yet, in Tyler's 13th beguiling novel, Delia's impulse to escape her disapproving physician husband and three surly children turns into an adventure that sweeps her from her staid Baltimore orbit into a new existence as Ms. Grinstead, spinster, in the Delaware community of Bay Borough. It's the unexamined life that's Delia's problem, and when she finally strips away layers of hurt, resentment, guilt and anger, she confronts her inner self and begins to deal with the chronic insecurity that has kept her childlike, flighty and dependent. Gradually, she becomes part of her new community, and has the courage to take a job caring for Noah Miller, an appealing 12-year-old whose mother has also run away from home and family. Over the course of a year, Delia discards her timorous personality and gains an understanding of the person she wants to be. One of the satisfactions of this novel is Tyler's evocation of typical family life. While in the past some of her characters have been too eccentric or fey, Delia and her family and friends all have both feet planted in the real world, even if their heads and hearts are sometimes elsewhere. Some readers may have difficulty accepting Delia's ability to absent herself from her children, but Tyler engages our sympathy and growing respect for a character who finally realizes that "the ladder of years" is a time trip to the future. BOMC main selection; major ad/promo; Random House Audio Book.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Perhaps no one writing fiction today can so clearly evoke middle-age angst as Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Tyler. As in 12 earlier Tyler novels, this work peers intimately into a seemingly ordinary family life. The family here is the Grinsteads, more particularly restless 40-year-old wife and mom Celia Grinstead. Feeling unappreciated and unnoticed by her husband, a family doctor who took over Celia's father's practice, and increasingly unnecessary in the lives of her nearly grown children, Celia wanders off during a family beach vacation and starts a new life in a small town. She's sad and uncertain about her break with her previous life but oddly determined. Poignant, warm, and quirky, this novel will be on a lot of spring reading lists.
-?Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st Trade Ed edition (April 11, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679441557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679441557
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (302 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her 17th novel. Her 11th, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Paul on May 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
What do you do when life gets you down, when the weight of your life becomes too much to bear? Simple. Just walk away. That's what we'd all like to do, anyway: leave it all behind and start over. And that's exactly what forty-year-old Delia Grinstead does in Anne Tyler's 1995 novel LADDER OF YEARS. In the book, Delia strolls away on one of her family's annual beach trips and hitches a ride with a stranger to the town of Bay Borough, where she begins her new life. Abandoning her past with her unappreciative family, she trades in her "baby-doll" wardrobe for some more conservative clothing, takes a job as a secretary, and spends her nights reading accomplished literature in place of her trashy romance novels. Though the reader's first impression of Delia may be of contempt for a selfish weakling who couldn't handle the pressure of a family, they will soon find that there is more to the woman's situation than simple everyday stress. Her marriage may be a sham, her children harbor nothing but embarassment for the mother they have suddenly become too cool for, and her near venture into adultry has left her shaken, stirred, and humiliated. This is an engaging, very personal story of a woman's journey into her own spirit to find out just how far she is willing to go to be happy. It's very funny, surprisingly touching, and relatable for everybody in at least one way. The book's only downfall is a rather unsatisfying ending that leaves many questions unanswered. However, the ending does not come near to ruining the book. LADDER OF YEARS is a joy to read.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Catherine S. Vodrey on September 21, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Anne Tyler's "Ladder of Years" is the story of Delia Grinstead's circular route to a new life. She commits the shocking act of simply walking away from her family on the beach one day, hitching a ride to wherever seems far away enough, and beginning a new life at the town of Bay Borough, Maryland. One by one, different members of her family track her down and she is drawn to them while simultaneously becoming more and more part of Bay Borough life. It's a fascinating account of a momentous decision, and the many repercussions of that decision.
When Delia finally returns to her family's home in Baltimore for an important family occasion, we want to see the tension either drawn tight (yes, she was right to leave!) or dissipated (of course, here's where she really belongs). Unfortunately, Tyler fails to really expand upon this theme and because of this, the ending is not only abrupt, but startling. This is the only Anne Tyler novel I ever finished with a feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Casey on February 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Delia feels profoundly the diametrically opposed emotions many of us have as we reach the midpoint of our lives. Middle age is a time of retrospection-we wonder if the choices we made were good ones. We question our choice of spouse, our choice of career, our future without children in the house, our achievements (or lack thereof), even our very purpose in life. Delia acts on her doubts-pushed along by a grossly inattentive husband and acrimonious children. Without her unpleasant home life, Delia might have stayed forever, never knowing the answers to her questions. Tyler provides all of us going through the pangs of middle age an alter ego through whom we experience what we might never actually do ourselves. She demonstrates her great talent by creating a sympathetic character in Delia. We feel for Delia, even though, in leaving her family, she commits an act generally condemned by society. As other readers have expressed, at one time or another everyone with a spouse and children has felt like walking away. However, Delia doesn't "abandon" her family, she is emotionally shoved out the door.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By belladena on May 1, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Fast and true: A book doesn't have to be a masterpiece or a 'classic' in order to speak to you. I knew from chapter one that _Ladder of Years_ was a regular story, without literary pretensions or fancy schmancy trickery designed to impress the reader or flatter our sensibilities. It spoke of the regular and the everyday - mostly of the small things that infuriate us all: the condescending husband, the whinnying nagging unmarried sister of the family, abrubt or impassive children.
The main character in this novel, Delia Grinstead, does what we all, at one time or another, would love to do. On vacation with her family, she picks up her tote bag and simply walks away from the only life she's ever known and begins a new one. And it all begins with a rather unusual meeting with a stranger at the grocery store. This is a fine tale of the powers of time and perspective; not just in the need to be alone, but in the need to be with new people and in surroundings that do not require anything more than what you are willing to offer.
_Ladder of Years_ addresses everyone's favourite fantasy of erasing the past and becoming someone new, which is why it is so easy to get lost in Delia's life, in her thoughts and feelings toward her family. This is just a fantastic book, one that really picks up in the second half. I had to read the last 200 pages in one sitting - even classics aren't that attractive. Anne Tyler has again managed to impress me with the ordinary!
Aside from the import of this novel, Anne Tyler has managed to draw out a great cast of characters. I always say that the author's characters are people you already know, or would (in some cases) like to know. Please read _Ladder of Years_.
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