I had never read Anne Tyler until I picked up my e-reader to begin Breathing Lessons (1988), for which the author won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1989. In her novel set in Baltimore, Maryland, Ms. Tyler invites the reader along on a day’s outing with Maggie and Ira Moran, a middle-aged couple who have been married so long that they have memorized each other.
This day trip is a metaphor for the couple’s marriage, and life in general. It made me squirm, as someone who relates a little too well to the ups and downs of decades spent with the one you love, for better or for worse. As a perfectionist, I wanted to fix this couple somehow…can’t they see what they are doing? But come to think of it, neither can I.
Edward Hoagland’s review in The New York Times Books section begins with this statement:
“Anne Tyler, who is blessedly prolific and graced with an effortless-seeming talent at describing whole rafts of intricately individualized people, might be described as a domestic novelist, one of that great line descending from Jane Austin. She is interested not in divorce or infidelity, but in marriage — not very much in isolation, estrangement, alienation and other fashionable concerns, but in courtship, child raising and filial responsibility.”
Although I have to admit that I find her characters sadly flawed and a bit clueless, I am curious to explore her other work.