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Clock Dance
Cover of Clock Dance
Clock Dance
A novel
NATIONAL BEST SELLER | A charming new novel of self-discovery and second chances from the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Spool of Blue Thread.
Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life. In 1967, she is a schoolgirl coping with her mother's sudden disappearance. In 1977, she is a college coed considering a marriage proposal. In 1997, she is a young widow trying to piece her life back together. And in 2017, she yearns to be a grandmother but isn't sure she ever will be. Then, one day, Willa receives a startling phone call from a stranger. Without fully understanding why, she flies across the country to Baltimore to look after a young woman she's never met, her nine-year-old daughter, and their dog, Airplane. This impulsive decision will lead Willa into uncharted territory—surrounded by eccentric neighbors who treat each other like family, she finds solace and fulfillment in unexpected places. A bewitching novel of hope and transformation, Clock Dance gives us Anne Tyler at the height of her powers.
NATIONAL BEST SELLER | A charming new novel of self-discovery and second chances from the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Spool of Blue Thread.
Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life. In 1967, she is a schoolgirl coping with her mother's sudden disappearance. In 1977, she is a college coed considering a marriage proposal. In 1997, she is a young widow trying to piece her life back together. And in 2017, she yearns to be a grandmother but isn't sure she ever will be. Then, one day, Willa receives a startling phone call from a stranger. Without fully understanding why, she flies across the country to Baltimore to look after a young woman she's never met, her nine-year-old daughter, and their dog, Airplane. This impulsive decision will lead Willa into uncharted territory—surrounded by eccentric neighbors who treat each other like family, she finds solace and fulfillment in unexpected places. A bewitching novel of hope and transformation, Clock Dance gives us Anne Tyler at the height of her powers.
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  • From the book

    2017

    The phone call came on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-July. Willa happened to be sorting her headbands. She had laid them out across the bed in clumps of different colors, and now she was pressing them flat with her fingers and aligning them in the compartments of a fabric-covered storage box she'd bought especially for the purpose. Then all at once, ring!

    She crossed to the phone and checked the caller ID: a Baltimore area code. Sean had a Baltimore area code. This wasn't Sean's number, though, so of course a little claw of anxiety clutched her chest. She lifted the receiver and said, "Hello?"

    "Mrs. MacIntyre?" a woman asked.

    Willa had not been Mrs. MacIntyre in over a decade, but she said, "Yes?"

    "You don't know me," the woman said. (Not a reassuring beginning.) She had a flat-toned, carrying voice—an overweight voice, Willa thought—and a Baltimore accent that turned "know me" into "Naomi," very nearly. "My name is Callie Montgomery," she said. "I'm a neighbor of Denise's."

    "Denise?"

    "Denise, your daughter-in-law."

    Willa didn't have any daughters-in-law, sad to say. However, Sean used to live with a Denise, so she went along with it. "Oh, yes," she said.

    "And yesterday, she got shot."

    "She what?"

    "Got shot in the leg."

    "Who did that?"

    "Now, that I couldn't tell you," Callie said. She let out a breath of air that Willa mistook at first for laughter, till she realized Callie must be smoking. She had forgotten those whooshing pauses that happened during phone conversations with smokers. "It was just random, I guess," Callie said. "You know."

    "Ah."

    "So off she goes in the ambulance and out of the goodness of my heart I take her daughter back to my house, even though I don't know the kid from Adam, to tell the truth. I hardly even know Denise! I just moved here last Thanksgiving when I left my sorry excuse for a husband and had to rent a place in a hurry. Well, that's a whole nother story which wouldn't interest you, I don't suppose, but anyhow, I figured I'd be stuck with Cheryl for just a couple of hours, right? Since a bullet in the leg didn't sound all that serious. But then lo and behold, Denise had to have an operation, so a couple of hours turns into overnight and then this morning she calls and tells me they're keeping her in the hospital for who-knows-how-much-longer."

    "Oh, dear . . ."

    "And I'm a working woman! I work at the PNC Bank! I was already dressed in my outfit when she called. Besides which, I am not used to dealing with children. This has been just about the longest day of my life, I tell you."

    Willa had known that Denise was a single mother, although she'd forgotten how old the child was and she had only a vague recollection that the father was "long gone," whatever that was supposed to mean. Helplessly, she said, "Well . . . that does sound like a problem."

    "Plus also there is Airplane who I think I might be allergic to."

    "Excuse me?"

    "So I go over to Denise's house and check the numbers on the list above her phone—doctors and veterinarian and whatnot—thinking I will call Sean if I have to although everybody knows Denise wouldn't even let him back in the house that time to pack his things, and what do I see but where she's written 'Sean's mom' so I say to myself, 'Okay, I'm just going to call Sean's mom and ask her to come get her grandchild.' "

    Willa couldn't imagine why her number would be on Denise's phone list. She said, "Actually—"

    "What state is this, anyhow?"

    ...

About the Author-
  • ANNE TYLER is the author of more than twenty novels. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2018

    From her mother's early-on disappearance to widowhood at a young age, Willa Drake has known tragedy; now she just wants to become a grandmother. But when her son's ex-girlfriend is shot, Willa rushes cross-country to tend to her and her nine-year-old daughter. There she learns how a community can bond as closely as family, how solace can be found in small, unexpected places, and how rebirth can come from pain. With a 250,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 7, 2018
    Pulitzer winner Tyler (following A Spool of Blue Thread) takes a bittersweet, hope-filled look at two quirky families that have broken apart and are trying to find their way back to one another. Plaintive Willa is the link between her own fractured Pennsylvania family—rebellious sister Elaine, long-suffering dad Melvin, and “tempestuous” and abusive mom Alice—and that of lonely Baltimore single mom Denise and her precocious, love-starved daughter, Cheryl. The novel’s first half follows Willa as she negotiates her troubled teenage years in the 1960s and her 20s and 30s in the ’70s, her reluctant marriage to college sweetheart Derek, and her late-in-life second marriage with stuffy retiree Peter. The narrative then jumps to 2017, when Willa gets a breathless call to come to Baltimore to help take care of Cheryl, the young daughter of her son’s recent ex-girlfriend, as Cheryl’s mom, Denise, recovers from a mysterious shot in the leg. There, Willa settles amiably in a neighborhood of misfits, hooligans, and steely survivors—and explores her own family miseries. The cast of sharply drawn characters dominates in ways both reflective and raucous across a series of emotional events, such as Willa’s baffling encounter with a would-be hijacker, a heartbreaking moment with her elderly dad, and the jolting advice she receives from a kindhearted doctor. It’s a stellar addition to Tyler’s prodigious catalogue. 250,000-copy announced first printing.

  • Kirkus

    May 1, 2018
    After a lightweight foray into rewriting Shakespeare (Vinegar Girl, 2016, etc.), Tyler returns to her tried-and-true theme of family life's emotionally charged complexities.Eleven-year-old Willa Drake doesn't really understand the fraught interchanges between her volatile mother and maddeningly mild-mannered father that roil the novel's opening chapter, set in Pennsylvania in 1967. But as the action leapfrogs to 1977 and she impulsively decides to marry college boyfriend Derek after he stands up to her mother on their first meeting, we see that, in a world of self-dramatizers and placaters, Willa has unconsciously decided to be a placater. The chapter detailing Derek's death in a California road-rage incident in 1997 suggests that Willa's placatory pattern is firmly set, an impression buttressed as Part II begins with 61-year-old Willa now married to Peter, another man who patronizes her and expects her to cater to his every whim. But then comes a phone call from Baltimore, where her son's ex-girlfriend Denise has been hospitalized with a broken leg after a mysterious shooting incident by a neighbor under the mistaken impression that Denise's daughter is Willa's granddaughter. This brazenly schematic setup for Willa's late-life regeneration is redeemed by the fact that it's utterly characteristic of our maddeningly mild-mannered heroine that she not only doesn't correct the misunderstanding, but gets on a plane to Baltimore, with Peter in tow complaining all the way. Power dynamics are never simple in Tyler's portraits of marriage, and when Willa needs to, she quietly gets what she wants. As she gets to know Denise's prematurely mature daughter, Cheryl, and the array of eccentric folks on their slightly seedy block--all vibrantly portrayed with Tyler's usual low-key gusto and bracingly dark humor--readers will want Willa to see that others appreciate her sly wit and tolerant acceptance of people's foibles as whiny Peter does not. But will she? Tyler drags out the suspense a tad longer than the slight plot merits.More predictable and less profound than her most recent full-scale work (the magical A Spool of Blue Thread, 2015), but Tyler's characteristic warmth and affection for her characters are as engaging as ever.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A novel
Anne Tyler
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