40 Forever: Anne Tyler vs. Anita Shreve

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Anne Tyler vs. Anita Shreve

Tyler, Anne. Noah’s Compass: A Novel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.
Shreve, Anita. A Change in Altitude: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2009. Print.

Last week I read Anita Shreve’s latest novel, A Change in Altitude. It’s a story about a woman who marries a man she barely knows and agrees to move to Kenya with him right after the wedding. Even though the book is filled with tragedy, political unrest, and betrayal, it bored me to tears. The characters are so one-dimensional, that I didn’t really care what happened to them. I kept thinking, “You dumb ass, what did you expect?” For the same reasons, I didn’t care for Shreve’s bestseller, The Pilot’s Wife, either.

Pulitzer Prize winner, Anne Tyler
(Photograph by Diana Walker)

This week I read Anne Tyler’s latest novel, Noah’s Compass. It’s a story about a 60 year old curmudgeon who loses his job and moves to a smaller apartment to save money. I found it to be absolutely riveting.

Since the book is rather short, I don’t want to give away much of the story. If you liked Accidental Tourist, you will love Noah’s Compass. If your library’s copy is checked out, it’s worth a trip to the bookstore. Just be aware that the list price is ($25.95–yikes!) and not all of the reviews were favorable. If you treat the book carefully while you read it, you can wrap it up and give it away as a Christmas gift.

ps. Anne Tyler’s books are so multi-layered that many people write doctoral dissertations about her work. As John Updike said, “Anne Tyler is not merely good, she is wickedly good.”

pps. Like John Waters, Anne Tyler sets most of her stories in her hometown, Baltimore.

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