Clock Dance

Clock Dance

Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life: when she was eleven and her mother disappeared, being proposed to at twenty-one, the accident that would make her a widow at forty-one. At each of these moments, Willa ended up on a path laid out for her by others.So when she receives a phone call telling her that her son’s ex-girlfriend has been shot and...

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Title:Clock Dance
Author:Anne Tyler
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Edition Language:English

Clock Dance Reviews

  • JanB

    4.5 stars, rounded up

    Anne Tyler is a master at writing about the ordinary in an extraordinary way. This is a beautifully told, thought-provoking novel that resonates with emotional depth. Terrific dialogue and well-developed quirky characters also makes it an endearing read. I read this book cover to cover in one day. I loved it. Anne Tyler simply gets women and understands their rich interior life.

    Willa is in her early 60’s and has spent her life with strong men (some, including me, might call

    4.5 stars, rounded up

    Anne Tyler is a master at writing about the ordinary in an extraordinary way. This is a beautifully told, thought-provoking novel that resonates with emotional depth. Terrific dialogue and well-developed quirky characters also makes it an endearing read. I read this book cover to cover in one day. I loved it. Anne Tyler simply gets women and understands their rich interior life.

    Willa is in her early 60’s and has spent her life with strong men (some, including me, might call them bullies) and she subjugates her needs and desires to others. She’s the compliant good girl, the mild-mannered one who walks on eggshells to keep the peace. In the early chapters, we are given the background story from her highly dysfunctional childhood, all of which helps explain Willa's personality. I felt I really came to know and understand Willa, and why she made the decisions that shaped her life.

    In the current day, she gets a phone call from the neighbor of her son's ex-girlfriend, Denise. The neighbor tells Willa that Denise is in the hospital recovering from surgery, and asks her to come and care for Denise's daughter, Cheryl, a girl she assumes is Willa's granddaughter. The problem? Willa has no grandchildren. It’s a case of mistaken identity.

    Despite her husband’s displeasure, Willa decides to fly across the country to Baltimore and help out. Some readers struggle with the 'why' but I understood Willa’s motives. She is getting older, her two sons are distant, her husband is an ass, she’s bored, and is attracted to the need to be needed. To have an adventure.

    I fell in love with the little girl, Cheryl, who was delightful, and the opposite of the younger Willa. Through the quirky neighbors, Willa begins to see what it’s like to be a part of a supportive family and community, to be needed, to have a purpose.

    Willa's timidity and passiveness drives some readers nuts, but that’s the entire point of the book. Does she find her voice, and does her character grow and develop? Her life has been defined by others. When Willa is given the opportunity to change, will she take it? I loved seeing the potential for growth in an older woman, a woman who begins to see her life with clarity and questions the relevance of her life. Seeing her make her own family, not one of blood, but of connection, was heart-warming.

    She touched my heart and I cheered her on! It's never too late if you are willing to take a chance on life.

    This may not be a book that resonates with a younger audience but I highly recommend it. It's the perfect example of why Anne Tyler is one of my top authors.

  • Diane S ☔

    3.5 I've read this author for years, her stories won't shake up the world nor cause any great seismic shifts in the Universe. Yet, they are so much about life, people that she treats so ternderly, with so much consideration for the unique individuals they are. Her writings, and this one is no exception, appeal because they are familiar. Her characters could be a family member, a friend, or the person one depends on when help is needed. Her unique talent is an insight into the many different ways

    3.5 I've read this author for years, her stories won't shake up the world nor cause any great seismic shifts in the Universe. Yet, they are so much about life, people that she treats so ternderly, with so much consideration for the unique individuals they are. Her writings, and this one is no exception, appeal because they are familiar. Her characters could be a family member, a friend, or the person one depends on when help is needed. Her unique talent is an insight into the many different ways we live our lives. This novel is very low key, understated, and fits perfectly with Willa. Willa, now 61, is one of those ladies who are there in the background, not demanding, just goes along with the flow seemingly wherever someone wants her to head. She has had two sons, wishes she were closer to them, gave up her career aspirations when she married, was widowed fairly young, and is now married again yo the demanding Peter. She is the person in the background, the one who makes the best of her life choices, causes little fuss, and is there when needed. Until one day, she gets a phone call.........

    Reading this book madkes me realize how easily we sometimes give in, how we can absorb and accept things we never thought we could. How they become the new normal. How much simpler it is to just go along, but maybe not as satisfying. I loved the characters Willa meets in this novel, how she risks herself, slowly stepping out of her shell. But once one does, where does one go from there? Well, that's Willas story and she can tell it better.

    ARC from Edelweiss.

  • Angela M

    This is the Anne Tyler that I have enjoyed for so many years . I was drawn to a seemingly ordinary character I couldn’t help but root for, couldn’t help but want something more for than she has been able to manage for herself, as I was back to Tyler’s beloved Baltimore with a cast of quirky characters I fell for . Once again she illustrates that a story doesn’t have to be about anything earth shattering to the world at large to be meaningful and full of heart and to make us think that life is al

    This is the Anne Tyler that I have enjoyed for so many years . I was drawn to a seemingly ordinary character I couldn’t help but root for, couldn’t help but want something more for than she has been able to manage for herself, as I was back to Tyler’s beloved Baltimore with a cast of quirky characters I fell for . Once again she illustrates that a story doesn’t have to be about anything earth shattering to the world at large to be meaningful and full of heart and to make us think that life is always full of possibilities.

    In 1967 eleven year old Willa Drake doesn’t have a perfect home life with a volatile, moody mother and a passive father. Fast forward to 1977 when she is twenty-one and we first meet Derek, the guy she’ll marry, someone full of himself, anxious for her to give up her plans for him and she does. Fast forward to 1997 when she’s forty-one and a widow and her sons are distant. Fast forward again to 2017 when she’s sixty-one remarried to Peter who seems an awful lot like Derek. Anne Tyler seamlessly and quickly moves us across decades and while without telling us what happens in between, she has a way of letting us understand what those years may have been like for Willa. “She was the only woman she knew whose prime objective was to be taken for granted.”

    Enter into her life, by a phone call that was perhaps not meant to have occurred, is Denise, her son’s ex girlfriend and her nine year old daughter, Cheryl. Along with them a cast of characters who get to Willa in a way she hasn’t felt in a long time. No need to tell more of the plot because if you are an Anne Tyler fan, you will want to read this book. If you have not read Tyler and enjoy reading about a character who is relatable, whose life is not earthshaking, but one that is full of hope and possibilities, you may enjoy this as well.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Knopf through Firsttoread.

  • Bkwmlee

    This is my first time reading Anne Tyler and it certainly won’t be my last! I like this author’s style – the way she is able to take everyday, mundane events and turn them into an interesting story, yet still keep the overall tone low-key, subtle, and rooted in reality. The story is divided into 4 major segments that highlight 4 particular “defining moments” in the life of the main character Willa Drake -- starting in 1967 when she is 11 years old, we get a glimpse of what her childhood was like

    This is my first time reading Anne Tyler and it certainly won’t be my last! I like this author’s style – the way she is able to take everyday, mundane events and turn them into an interesting story, yet still keep the overall tone low-key, subtle, and rooted in reality. The story is divided into 4 major segments that highlight 4 particular “defining moments” in the life of the main character Willa Drake -- starting in 1967 when she is 11 years old, we get a glimpse of what her childhood was like and how her family environment helped shape the kind of person she would become; then the story jumps to 1977, when Willa is in college and faces a major life decision in the form of a marriage proposal; then it jumps to 20 years later, in 1997, when Willa is faced with yet another life-changing event, widowhood at the young age of 41 and having to figure out how to move forward with her 2 teenage sons; and finally, 2017 when Willa is 61 years old, remarried (to a man whose personality is similar to her first husband in so many ways), retired and contemplating her lot in life when she gets a phone call about her son’s ex-girlfriend and impulsively flies to Baltimore. Through these vignette-like “observations” into her life at various stages, we get to know Willa on a deeper level and by the end of the book, she has become like a dear friend whom we just finished spending quality time with. Granted, I didn’t always agree with Willa’s decisions and honestly, at times her passiveness and tolerance for things she shouldn’t have tolerated really frustrated me, but I still liked her as a character and enjoyed being in her company, even if only for a short few days (the amount of time it took me to read the book). The character development is definitely well-done in here, and not just with Willa but also with the other characters, even some of the ones who only make a brief appearance. I enjoy reading about characters that are relatable, which many times means that they also have to be realistic and yes, sometimes even “ordinary,” – a character that may not necessarily have much excitement going on in their lives, but yet encounter interesting enough moments where a story like this never once comes across as boring.

    As other reviewers have said, the story here is simple as well as subtle and not much goes on outside of normal, everyday stuff, yet at no point did I feel the story drag. In the beginning, when I found out this would be a “slice of life” type of story, I was a little worried, as I usually don’t take to these types of stories too well – I prefer a continuous story where I am able to see the main character’s growth and gradual development. This book was very different from other “slice of life” books I’ve read in that this one went deeper in terms of characterization as well as emotional depth and to me at least, the transitions from one time period to another were seamless. I’ve heard that Anne Tyler is a masterful writer and I can definitely see why. I’m sure that the next time I am in the mood for a quiet, yet meaningful read with characters that are relatable and easy to connect with, I will be picking up one of Tyler’s other novels to enjoy!

  • Esil

    Anne Tyler “gets” people. Her stories are deceptively simple, but the strength of her writing is in the nuanced interactions between her characters. Clock Dance wasn’t my favourite Anne Tyler, but it still gave me the satisfaction of reading fiction written by a master. The story focuses on different slices in the life of main character Willa. We see Willa at age 11 when her mother disappears for a few days, Willa at age 21 when she brings her boyfriend home from college, Willa in her early 40s

    Anne Tyler “gets” people. Her stories are deceptively simple, but the strength of her writing is in the nuanced interactions between her characters. Clock Dance wasn’t my favourite Anne Tyler, but it still gave me the satisfaction of reading fiction written by a master. The story focuses on different slices in the life of main character Willa. We see Willa at age 11 when her mother disappears for a few days, Willa at age 21 when she brings her boyfriend home from college, Willa in her early 40s when faced by a terrible loss and Willa in her early 60s when she is unexpectedly propelled to care for someone else’s 11 year old. As I write this description, I realize that there’s a symmetry to the story I had missed as I read it. The real focus of Taylor’s novel is how Willa is shaped by these events, and how her personality simultaneously helps and hinders her. Taylor is the master of scenes where emotions are potent and much is left unsaid, and there are plenty of such scenes in Clock Dance. Without saying it explicitly, Taylor shows Willa’s life as a life of kindness, hindered by hesitation and carefulness. It feels painful and real, although the end is satisfying. Recommended for fans of Anne Tyler. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  • Elyse

    I must be a magnet to to saddest...

    If there is an ounce of sadness in a story - I latch on tightly.

    This story had plenty of it too. It’s not that I was feeling sad every minute, but my god, it killed me right from the start knowing a little girl had to be ‘responsible’ and ‘adult-like’ before she was developmentally prepared or age-appropriate.

    Later we visit a familiar theme that women have grappled with for centuries: pleasing others - giving up dreams ( if even clear of them in the first pla

    I must be a magnet to to saddest...

    If there is an ounce of sadness in a story - I latch on tightly.

    This story had plenty of it too. It’s not that I was feeling sad every minute, but my god, it killed me right from the start knowing a little girl had to be ‘responsible’ and ‘adult-like’ before she was developmentally prepared or age-appropriate.

    Later we visit a familiar theme that women have grappled with for centuries: pleasing others - giving up dreams ( if even clear of them in the first place), trying to take care of everyone else’s needs, but little thought to one’s own.

    And what I found interesting- and incredibly ‘present-day-modern-life relatable’, is the role that ‘strangers’ play in our lives.

    If we are unsure of ourselves - our purpose - not finding it at home - why not reach out in completely new directions?

    ‘Strangers’ often become sub-families.

    Ann gives us much to chew on - discuss - in “Clock Dance”.

    We journey with Willa Drake from childhood to middle age.

    I don’t think we saw the full depths of Willa. She opened a locked door to herself ...but I’m left wondering what else is going on inside her and what’s next?

    Not knowing is a gut honest uncomfortable place to be.

    I still don’t like the book cover - but I enjoyed the book....(the characters - the subtlety- and the insightful thoughts it ignites).

    Very glad I read this!!!

  • Glenn Sumi

    It’s been over a week since I finished Anne Tyler’s latest novel,

    , and I have to admit: I’m suffering from withdrawal.

    I miss her characters. Tyler has the ability to create people of such depth and richness that you’ll swear you know them like friends and family. Even now, when I think of the 8 or 9 Tyler novels I’ve read, I can vividly remember the set-in-his-ways Macon Leary (from

    ), those very different Tull children and their distant mother, Pearl (

    It’s been over a week since I finished Anne Tyler’s latest novel,

    , and I have to admit: I’m suffering from withdrawal.

    I miss her characters. Tyler has the ability to create people of such depth and richness that you’ll swear you know them like friends and family. Even now, when I think of the 8 or 9 Tyler novels I’ve read, I can vividly remember the set-in-his-ways Macon Leary (from

    ), those very different Tull children and their distant mother, Pearl (

    ) and the bickering, mismatched Maggie and Ira Moran (

    ). Those are just a few.

    Critics of her work argue she writes the same story continually, and after a while you can see patterns among her chatty, well-meaning women, her low-key, genial men and her life-affirming (usually female) rebels. But each one of her books is fixed clearly in my mind – not something I can say about a lot of other writers.

    ’s protagonist is Willa Drake, and I love the way Tyler lets us get to know her. In the first part, we’re given chapters that each capture a significant moment in her life. In the first chapter, she’s 11 and her mother – a flighty, dramatic type – abandons the family (that too is a common Tyler theme; many of her women simply walk out the door). Ten years later, Willa is a college student whose boyfriend springs something surprising on her during a visit to her family home. And ten years after that, Willa finds herself dealing, rather passively, with a tragedy.

    All of this is a set up for the second part of the book, in which Willa, now 61, gets a phone call about Denise, one of her distant sons’ ex-girlfriends, who’s living in Baltimore. Willa’s never met the woman, but she agrees to travel across the country to take care of Denise’s 9-year-old daughter, even though the kid’s not her son’s child.

    Willa has been a rather timid observer throughout most of her life – an early scene set in an airplane remarkably illustrates that – and now, finally, she’s doing something decisive, even though her family doesn’t understand why.

    The book’s not perfect. Once Willa gets to Baltimore, she meets a few too many eccentric, quirky characters, and I had a hard time keeping them straight. The title also doesn’t resonate in the way most of her other ones do.

    But what I loved was seeing how artfully Tyler wove various motifs into the book: airplanes, children cooking, driving. By letting us glimpse characters over decades, she lets us see how people repeat themselves, make the same mistakes they – or even their parents – did before. Have you ever seen a child who has the spunk you wish you’d had at that age? Willa does, and it reinvigorates her life.

    I know women like Willa, people who, without realizing it, do everything for the males around them, only to end up unappreciated. So when she discovers a new family – one in which she’s warmly welcomed – why wouldn’t she want to spend time with them?

    I have yet to give an Anne Tyler novel less than 3 stars. And this one, while not her best, shows she’s lost none of her powers. She’s a marvel.

  • Larry H

    I'm around 3.5 stars.

    Willa has always let life happen to her.

    As a child in the late 1960s, her family lives at the mercy of her tempestuous mother, whose mood swings and disappearances leave everyone on edge, wondering which woman will be present each day. In the late 1970s, as she is planning a course of study in college that fascinates her, her boyfriend has other ideas, which include marriage and her moving to California with him.

    As a relatively young widow in the late 1990s, she must suddenl

    I'm around 3.5 stars.

    Willa has always let life happen to her.

    As a child in the late 1960s, her family lives at the mercy of her tempestuous mother, whose mood swings and disappearances leave everyone on edge, wondering which woman will be present each day. In the late 1970s, as she is planning a course of study in college that fascinates her, her boyfriend has other ideas, which include marriage and her moving to California with him.

    As a relatively young widow in the late 1990s, she must suddenly try and figure out what is next for her life, considering her husband and children have been the ones to chart her course for as long as she can remember. And 20 years later, still seeking a purpose, she gets a completely unexpected phone call, and without warning, she finds herself heading across the country to take care of a young girl and her mother, two people she had never even met before.

    While this decision uproots Willa's life and causes significant turmoil, being depended upon, even relied upon, for the first time in many years, feels tremendously fulfilling. And as she helps this family get back on its feet (literally, in one case), she feels a part of something. She has a purpose, even if it's quite simple. And in the Baltimore community, where neighbors seem to know everything about each other's lives, are willing to help each other, and treat one another like family, Willa becomes her own person.

    So many books out there focus on characters in unusual circumstances, or in the midst of major upheaval or adversity. Anne Tyler's books more often than not focus on average, everyday people, living life the way they always have, when something changes. She has the ability to make a "regular" person seem much more fascinating than they might in real life, but perhaps more than that, Tyler is the champion for misanthropes, curmudgeons, and those who dither rather than make decisions.

    Tyler has such an ear for dialogue. She can perfectly capture conversations between parent and child (no matter what the relationship is between them), husband and wife, siblings (close or distant), and friends. It's one of the hallmarks of her books—she is an author who truly "gets" people, and realizes characters don't have to stop bullets with their hands or navigate great personal strife to anchor a book. That is one reason her talent has endured through the years.

    I'll admit I didn't love

    as much as I hoped I would. (I tend to anxiously await each new Tyler book.) I felt as if Willa's epiphany took a little too long, and then I felt the ending of the book seemed very abrupt. But the characters, while in many cases reasonably unsympathetic, were still fascinating, and I wish Tyler gave us more of some of the supporting characters.

    No matter what, any one of Tyler's books is truly a gift. Her novels are truly a testament to her talent and her fascination with the flawed beings we humans are.

    See all of my reviews at

    , or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at

    .

  • Meredith B.  (readingwithmere)

    This was my first Anne Tyler book and I picked it up because it is the Barnes and noble book club quarterly pick!

    The book opens when Willa is a young girl. We spend the next 100 or so pages going through her childhood and early adult life. She goes to college, gets married, has 2 sons and overall a pretty average American life. One day her and her then husband Derek are in a serious car accident and their lives are pretty much forever changed.

    We jump to the next 20 years and Willa is mar

    This was my first Anne Tyler book and I picked it up because it is the Barnes and noble book club quarterly pick!

    The book opens when Willa is a young girl. We spend the next 100 or so pages going through her childhood and early adult life. She goes to college, gets married, has 2 sons and overall a pretty average American life. One day her and her then husband Derek are in a serious car accident and their lives are pretty much forever changed.

    We jump to the next 20 years and Willa is married to someone named Peter and he is not someone I would call a great spouse. He calls her "Little One", which is bizarre to call your wife. He also tells her what to do and she just kind of mouses away and goes with it. At this point Willa doesn't have much of a relationship with her sons, her sister and both of her parents have passed. She gets a call from one of her's son's ex girlfriends friends that Denise has been in an accident. Willa and Peter fly out to Baltimore to take care of her and this is when Willa realizes that strangers can turn into friends who can turn into family.

    Overall I think the book was OK. I really enjoyed the fact that the story was about a woman who has been told what to do most of her life and once she's put into this new situation, she kind of finds her own voice and becomes a more independent and strong person. I think that was really heartwarming that she found comfort in this new place and with these strangers that suddenly came into her life. I also really enjoyed Anne Tyler's writing style.

    This book was only OK for me because I felt like the story was a bit slow moving for me. Maybe I was thinking there would be a bit more action and I wanted to see more things happen. It was nice to see Willa's journey however I'd like to see her relationships with her son's flourish or find out how she ended up once she got home to Tucson. There was a little blurb right at the very end what she was planning to do but I felt like I needed more to be satisfied with the ending. I just felt like pieces were missing and I felt like there's so many questions I have!

    I'll be interested to hear what other readers have to say about this when we discuss during the B&N meeting but overall this was just OK for me.

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