Willa is just a kid in 1967 when the CLOCK DANCE opens. Her mother has temporarily flown the coop and her dad is trying to hold down the fort. We get a really good picture into their family life.
Move forward ten years and Willa brings her boyfriend home for the holidays where he announces their engagement. Willa is not so keen to marry Derek, but when she sees how much her mother is against the marriage she jumps right into it.
Fast forward years from then. Derek is killed in an incident of road rage and Willa is left to raise their sons herself.
Part 2. Willa is in her early sixties and has remarried a man named Peter. They are living out west in Arizona. She gets a call from a stranger that her son’s old girlfriend Denise is in the hospital and her daughter Cheryl needs someone to care for her. Cheryl is nine. Willa drags Peter to Baltimore where they stay in Denise’s house with the dog named airplane and the girl. Meanwhile Denise is in the hospital with a gunshot injury. And where did that come from?
Everything changes. Enter eccentric neighbors. These are all people you would likely meet in a somewhat seedier place. But these characters truly make this a memorable story. Their stories ring true. They bring a certain normalcy to an otherwise odd story.
Peter eventually becomes tired of this and goes back home to Arizona. Willa keeps finding more and more reasons to stay on. She is beginning to feel like she really is Cheryl’s grandmother even though we know better. She is feeling needed, and even possibly loved. The bond between the young girl and the grandmotherly woman is refreshing.
Anne Tyler is the queen of subtlety. A master of telling the quiet story. She makes the seemingly mundane sparkle and pop. And she knows her Baltimore. She also knows what makes people tick. This short novel might be small, but it speaks volumes about the human spirit.
I think you will love the ending. I sure did.
I read my review copy of CLOCK DANCE digitally. I thank the nice people at Knopf. It’s another keeper.