Clock Dance

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Summer Reading - by Anne Tyler, Pen­guin

A de­light­ful dance through the time Willa has spent on earth – from the 11-year-old in 1967 ask­ing Pop when Mom is com­ing home, full cir­cle to the 61-year-old in 2017, act­ing as sur­ro­gate grandma to Ch­eryl, nine, a car­bon copy old-headon-young-shoul­ders. Willa as­so­ciates grilled cheese sand­wiches with Mom’s dis­ap­pear­ances, be­cause it is all her father can cook. Sis­ter Elaine wants drive-thru take­away, but the car has gone. “This was bad. Mom didn’t just walk to friend Mimi’s, she’d gone who-knows-where.” In 1977 at 21, Willa mar­ries col­lege se­nior Derek, against the wishes of mum Alice, who doesn’t want Willa to give up life and have ba­bies. In 1997, at 41, with sons Sean and Ian, Derek dies in a road­rage ac­ci­dent. We love Willa and her long-suf­fer­ing kind­ness. When Willa agrees to look af­ter the daugh­ter of Sean’s ex-girl­friend Denise, she finds the car­ing com­mu­nity that has eclipsed her – and her­self. Re­mar­ried to Peter, she is an Ari­zo­nian golf widow. In a street in Bal­ti­more, where win­dows ad­ver­tise “Pri­vate de­tec­tive” and a biker car­ries shoot­ing vic­tim Denise back home, Willa whis­pers, “I haven’t felt use­ful in for­ever.”

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