Clock Dance by Anne Tyler was Barnes & Noble‘s book club pick for this month. Their last pick was The Female Persuasion (review here) was a feminist manifesto and Clock Dance wasn’t too far out of that vein.
Anne Tyler wrote Clock Dance based on the premise that we decide who we will be at a very young age and that this decision affects every decision we make for the rest of our lives. I agree to an extent. Clock Dance stretches this idea out for a period of 51 years in the life of Willa Drake.
Initially, I thought me and Willa would make it. She is the older sister in a troubled household. The responsible one. Trying to make sense of life and care for her younger sister, Elaine, as she deals with her possibly (probably, better yet definitely) mentally ill and abusive mother and her passive ( to a fault) father.
With similar childhood experiences, I thought I would connect with Willa and enjoy her story but our similarities end at our childhood experiences. (*** note my mother is not abusive or mentally ill. Deductive reasoning can fill in the rest for you)
While I agree with Tyler‘s original premise (I too at a young age decided what I would and would not be), I disagree with Willa’s choice. The story became more and more difficult for me to bear as the decision 11-year-old Willa made plays out for the rest of her life.
Willa at 11 chooses what parent she wants to be like and the choice trickles down into every area of her life. Who she chooses to marry. Dreams she chooses to pursue or abandon. How she interacts with her parents, her sibling, her children, strangers. It’s just everywhere. Seeing as I wholeheartedly disagreed with her choice you can see how the story got rough for me.
Willa’s childhood choice affects how she is treated for the next 51 years. I just want to keep screaming at her “Just undecide!” That’s it. Just undecide and go on with your life.
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Cool As A Cactus
Willa is always calm and collected outwardly. Her inner thoughts, however, are often a whole other creature. Clock Dance, just like Willa, is almost calm to a fault. If you are looking for an explosive climax, look away. This is not the book for you.
Clock Dance skips large intervals of time between chapters but the same ole Willa shows up on every occasion. Through love, loss, and grief we get the same responses to stimuli from Willa. Then an unexpected call from a stranger turns Willa’s life upside down. You can decide for yourself what Willa’s motivation is to go across the country to care for a perfect stranger is. The move shakes up Willa’s life and forces her to face why she is the way she is.
A Baltimore neighborhood full of odd pairings becomes a makeshift family for Willa. Fiesty gunshot victims, precocious little kids, awkward teens, bikers, and a slew of other unique characters fills the neighborhood that eventually fills Willa’s heart.
The Switch Up
OK, its barely a switch up. Willa’s personality is pretty much cemented in but I will say seeing her in new surroundings was somewhat enjoyable. I can’t give away the end because it’s just as subtle as Willa’s dislikes. You kind of have to figure out for yourself what you think happens. I have a definite preference of course but that’s neither here nor there.
Anne Tyler wrote one of the best descriptions of hell near the end of Clock Dance. My favorite line is when Ben (a neighborhood acquaintance) tells Willa “My wife used to say that her idea of hell would be marrying Gandhi”. No truer words my friend. No truer words. Being married to a fairly passive person myself this book was a special kind of torture for me and that quote about sums up my life’s experience. (**love ya babe** lol)
Clock Dance was a fairly interesting book. Wasn’t my favorite but I did get to discuss it at a lovely little book club meeting at Barnes & Noble so that’s always fun. I will say that I can probably blame part of my dislike for Clock Dance and The Female Persuasion on the generational difference. The lovely older (but not old) woman at the book club meeting enjoyed Clock Dance because it was written from a time and mindset they understood. If you enjoy books with feminist themes or undertones you will enjoy Clock Dance. If you are older (not old )you will probably enjoy it as well. This book will make you self-evaluate and for that reason alone I really would recommend it to anyone.