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Ladder of Years [Hardcover]

Anne Tyler
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 1996 Charnwood Library
One day, during a family seaside holiday, something which has already begun to fray quietly snaps. Delia simply walks off the beach, away from her husband, Sam, and her three almost grown-up children. In a nearby town, she reinvents herself as a serious and independent-minded woman without ties.
--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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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. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

In Tyler's 13th novel, Celia Grinstead inexplicably walks out on her family.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of her best novels! April 26 2006
Format:Paperback
And that's saying a lot, because I really really like Anne Tyler and have read many (if not most) of her books. Her narrative style is so sympathetic and so utterly comforting that it's like slippinginto an old cashmere sweater or your favourite sweats. It takes no effort whatsoever to read, and just reels you right in from the first page. I bought my copy years ago and it's now worn down from repeated reads. Anytime I want something comforting and familiar, and yet completely absorbing, this is the book I turn too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars GOOD UNTIL THE VERY END June 4 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've read a few of Anne Tyler's novels and I would say this is the weakest of the lot. It's about a woman who wanders away from her husband and family on an ostenisble journey to find herself. As the book progresses, you can assume that the themes of an unhappy marriage will be explored, and on the surface they are. I found the husband/wife relationship in "Breathing Lessons" to be a much more satisfying read. Also, this book totally falls apart at the end. You spend your time with the book, thinking the threads will form some beautiful tapestry at the end, but all you're left with is a bunch of frayed yarn. I would recommend this for hard-core Anne Tyler fans ONLY.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Desertion, Divorce, and Delia Feb. 14 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The book Ladder of Years is the story about a woman who leaves her family to create a completely new one with no ties from her past attached. The only part of her past that she chooses to keep is her name, for the practical purpose of identification rather than sentimentality. This book brings to surface many conflicting emotions and ideas about family responsibilities, marriage, and the search for self-purpose. The main character, Delia, chooses to go against what is socially expected and leaves her husband and her family without so much as a backwards glance. Her reason's for doing so toy with the readers emotions. Is Delia justified in her reasons to leave everything including her children? Or is she a selfish, middle-aged woman trying to see how things could have been if the past she accepted had been different. The book moves at a quick pace through Delia's life, one season quickly moving through to the next, but it reads slower due to the almost monotone way of Delia's new way of living. Upon finishing this book I felt that Delia was selfish in the desertion of her family and that she should not have been readily accepted back into the past that she had left with few regrets. Through Delia's experience the reader is confronted with the idea that marriages don't work, something will happen to bring about failure. This pattern is seen over and over throughout the book including in the life of Delia's own daughter. Concidering this point, I would recommend this book for those who wish to see how things would have been, and for those who are newly engaged and on the path to wedded bliss, beware!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ho-Hum Feb. 14 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was not thrilled with this novel. I wonder if it is because I had trouble relating with the characters, especially Delia. She was so passive it drove me nuts. She always ran away from her problems instead of trying to work them out. She ran away from her family and her job as a secretary, and finally Noah and Joel. I had trouble seeing past my irritation with Delia. I beleive that if you want things to change you must take the initiative and do whatever it takes to make change happen. There were many other things Delia could have tried before leaving her family. I was glad that Delia had found her independence, even though I do not agree with her means of attaining it. The cat symbolism was interesting and did add depth to my reading experience, but it was not enough turn my opinion of the novel around. The final dissappointment of this book was the ending. Delia came creeping back to the same world she had left behind. I felt like the story was just a large cirle, that ended up in the same place as it began.
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3.0 out of 5 stars This Ladder Is Worth the Climb Feb. 13 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
While I initially found Anne Tyler's writing style dry, and her reluctance to delve into her character's psyche's disappointing, by the end of this novel, I actually began to appreciate how this approach allowed my imagination to fill in the gaps. I felt I almost knew more about the main character, Delia, by all the things she DIDN'T say, rather than by the little she did say. I also appreciated living vicariously through her when she literally walked away from her unappreciative family and began a new life apart from them. Although I was angry that she stayed away from her children as long as she did and did not even try to contact them, I did admire the courage it took (although she never did seem truly frightened)for her to take the time she needed to come to terms with herself, BY herself. Now that I think of it, however, she probably was never afraid of being on her own because she knew that help from Sam, or even her sisters, was only a phone call away. And it is that fact -- that unconditional acceptance from her family about her choice to run away -- that left me annoyed and yet just a little bit envious at this modern day fairy tale,where everything seems to turn out okay in the end. No one seems more than slightly ticked off that Delia left for a year.
She just waltzes back into everyone's life and things go on pretty much as usual. No questions (or too few, anyway) asked. Well, I guess that's why it's called fiction. Still, I would recommend this book because of its commentaries about marriage, families and not taking those we love for granted.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting premise, disappointing ending
Easy to read, good character development and despite the unlikely story line Tyler is able to make Delia's actions believable, but the book is ultimately unsatisfying, especially... Read more
Published on May 24 2011 by cleo
1.0 out of 5 stars boring
Being in the mood for an easy read,I picked this up from my friend's bookshelf. It was more like a Danielle Steel novel, and the only reason I kept reading was to find out what... Read more
Published on June 3 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacked Something
It has been difficult for me to even decide if I enjoyed Ladder of Years. Yes, I kept turning the pages to see what would happen next, but that was the only reason I kept turning... Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2002 by Syretta Cole
3.0 out of 5 stars Hasn't this been done?
This is the first book that I have read by Anne Tyler, so I can not say about her overall abilities, but this novel seemed to lack something. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2002 by Cara Keast
3.0 out of 5 stars Feeling bad for Delia
Having never read any of Anne Tylers work, I was pleaseantly surprsied by how engulfed I became in Delia's story. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2002 by Rebecca Katz
3.0 out of 5 stars "So-So"
"Ladder of Years was not a novel that was particularly striking, nor did I find it boring. The idea of a wife and mother who up and leaves her husband and children is... Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Rality of Life
The book by Anne Tyler, Ladder of Years, deals with several deferent things. It is mainly focused on Delia, the main character in the book, and struggles somewhat with reality. Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2002 by Suzana V.
3.0 out of 5 stars Ladder of Years
I enjoyed this book for may reasons such as it charcters, its story line and the stages the book goes through with Delia. Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2002
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