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 needs her help, she drops everything and flies across the country. The spur-of-the-moment decision to look after this woman – and her nine-year-old daughter, and her dog – will lead Willa into uncharted territory. Surrounded by new and surprising neighbours, she is plunged into the rituals that make a community and takes pleasure in the most unexpected things.
A bittersweet novel of hope and regret, fulfillment and renewal, Clock Dance brings us the everyday life of a woman who decides it’s never too late to change direction, and choose your own path.
The Writing– Clock Dance is the first book I have read from Anne Tyler, and it will not be my last. I have already downloaded a few of her backlist books on audiobook. She is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and the reasons why are very evident in Clock Dance. She has a way with words and it is incredible how she can make a seemingly simple story seem so extraordinary.
The Characters– Willa and all of the supporting characters are ordinary, everyday people who seem completely real. These are characters that could easily be your neighbour, your friends, your family, etc. I appreciated that Clock Dance is simply the story of one woman’s life. She experiences things that most of us will go through at one point in our lives. I also really liked that Willa is not a twenty-something woman! She has adult children! It was so refreshing to read from the perspective of a woman in a different phase of life.
The side characters shined in this story as well! They each had their own personalities and quirks. None of them were perfect, and that just made me love them even more! There were some characters I didn’t like, aka her husband, but they felt authentic.
The Story– The plot of Clock Dance is very quiet and I would definitely classify this as a character-driven novel. We follow Willa’s life starting at childhood when she is dealing with an unpredictable mother, then in her twenties when she is dating her husband, then when she is married and something tragic happens. The second half of the novel takes place in the present day and she ends up looking after a little girl under odd circumstances. This leads to her discovering a lot about herself and what she wants and needs in her life. Her past also affects how she acts and thinks in the present day.
The Pacing– There were times throughout the novel that I felt the pacing was pretty slow.
“Still, this morning her mother was looking so fresh and attractive, with the rosebuds bringing out the pink-and-white of her skin, and the house was smelling so cozy, and the world was back to how it should be.”
“I think I am not a natural-born enjoyer of the moment,” Willa said. “Even now: I’m the type who goes on vacation and spends the whole time wondering if I remembered to turn the oven off, and whether we can manage that tight connection when we fly home.”
“She had read somewhere that human infants were born with the belief that they were entitle to two parents- that this explained why children reacted so catastrophically to divorce. Since coming to Baltimore, Willa had begun to wonder if they felt entitled to grandparents.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Clock Dance and I am thrilled that I got the chance to read it. I have come to realize that I really connect to quiet stories that follow the lives of one character. I can not wait to read more of Anne Tyler’s novels. I am wondering if anyone has read her books in the past and which ones you would recommend?
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy of Clock Dance in exchange for an honest review.