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Ladder of Years [Mass Market Paperback]

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

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Book Description

April 1996
2 cassettes / 3 hours
Read by Barbara Barrie

"UTTERLY COMPELLING . . . WONDERFULLY SATISFYING . . . VIRTUALLY FLAWLESS."
--Chicago Tribune

Anne Tyler tells the story of a forty-year-old woman, the mother of three almost grown children, who, on a sudden impulse, walks away from her marriage, hitches a ride into the unknown, and settles in a strange new town to invent a new life.

What propels Delia Grinstead, the wife of a Baltimore physician, as she is spending another rainy vacation with husband, children, and assorted relatives?  Is it old hurts and humiliations that surface this particular summer?  The feeling that she has become expendable?  The memory, perhaps, of that angular young man in the supermarket who asked her to pose as his girlfriend when he runs into his ex-wife?  Or is it simply the lure of the local repairman's beautifully self-sufficient van, sailing off, unencumbered?  Whatever, Delia takes off, wearing only her swimsuit and her husband's beach robe, and doesn't stop until she is suddenly captivated by a quiet little tree-lined town.  There she halts the van, hopes off, finds a room to rent, and settles in.  So begins her new, impersonal life as Ms. Grinstead.  But inevitable, the world crowds in.  New friends, new responsibilities accumulate - from a stray cat who craves a hone to a sad, deserted husband, and his little boy who need her to fill a hole in their lives.

Once again, Anne Tyler dazzles us with her magic.


"TYLER DETAILS DELIA'S ADVENTURE WITH GREAT SKILL. . . . As so often in her earlier fiction, [she] creates distinct characters caught in poignantly funny situations. . . . Tyler writes with a clarity that makes the commonplace seem fresh and the pathetic touching."
--The New York Times
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details


Product Description

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 the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover 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 Interesting premise, disappointing ending May 24 2011
By cleo
Format:Paperback
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 the last scene with her husband. The book didn't necessarily need a wow finish, as it is a quiet kind of book, but having Delia step back into her old life so blithely seemed too abrupt. I did like the way the secondary characters relationship problems were fleshed out as it supported the overall theme of the need for communication, compromise and a healthy dose of reality checking in order to build a lasting relationship. And I did still find lots to think about while reading the book - especially the concept of how easy it could seem to be to walk away from the problems with the people you should care about, only to start the process all over again as strangers who initially mean nothing start to require the emotional investment you had walked away from in the first place.
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1.0 out of 5 stars boring June 3 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 happended at the end. There was nothing deep or meaningful,it wasn't even an enjoyable "easy" read.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Lacked Something Feb. 21 2002
Format:Paperback
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 the pages. I felt that the book lacked something that I still cannot put my finger on. It is not the best book I've ever read, but not the worst. I could not fully figure out what Delia's intentions were for leaving her family, so I was never able to figure out if I personally could excuse her actions. I feel that Ms. Tyler could have gave the main character more emotional depth and not kept the reader guessing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hasn't this been done? Feb. 18 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. I found it somewhat predictable, a normal Sunday afternoon on Lifetime. Granted, the story had a very good flow and was very easy to read, and there was good character development, but none the less it lacked that sparkle that keeps you guessing and wanting to read. I often found myself wondering about Delia's feelings, and how easily she was able to block other's feelings out. It just all seemed too easy. In a book about hardships and feelings many women have, I would think the novel a bit easier to relate and connect to. I would recommend this book for some easy reading on vacaton, maybe while taking a long flight, but not to ponder while sitting in a garden.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Feeling bad for Delia Feb. 17 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Having never read any of Anne Tylers work, I was pleaseantly surprsied by how engulfed I became in Delia's story. As the story begins the reader imediatly meets Delia and is taken on a crazy adventure that many women would find exciting, but as the story continues the reader finds how uneventful Delia's life really is. Although I don't belive running away was the answer, if my life was that unsatisfying I would want to make drastic changes as well. Unfortunately, I began to feel less and less sorry for Delia as time continued. I don't belive she did much on her journy to help herself she only hid from the truth. Overall, I though the book was very entertaining, but it lost some of its steam mid stream.
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3.0 out of 5 stars "So-So" Feb. 14 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"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 intrigueing becuse it happens so rarely. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I enjoyed the blurry explanation for Delia's actions. I felt that Tyler was leaving something for the reader to infer. Like many others, I enjoyed Tyler's casual style. Her writing flows nicely, and she creates characters that one can love and hate at the same time. Her characters are similar to real people and not romanticized in any way.
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