Ladder of Years – Book Review
By: Anne Tyler
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Copyright: 1994, ISBN: 
reviewed by: Leslie Yau, June 5, 1995
Summary: Probably for Anne Tyler fans only.
Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 6
If you are dreaming of a cool, fun-filled vacation, go to the beach. If you are thinking about running away from home, read Anne Tyler’s LADDER OF YEARS. You might be surprised at how easy running away can be. No packing involved. Certainly no need to say goodbye. Delia thinks her life gets a face lift after running away from her family of twenty years. But will she be able to get her problems resolved? Read on.
Delia Grinstead, a 40-year old married woman with three grown up children, took off one day without any logical explanations. Up to the day she walked out from her family, Delia lived her whole life depending on someone in her family. First her father, her sisters, and then her physician husband when, twenty years ago he chose Delia to be his wife from among the three sisters.
After being married to Sam for two decades, Delia decided that her husband married her just so he could rightfully inherit her father’s medical practice. It is a bit too late, isn’t it? Being a woman with little self-confidence and who spends most of her free time reading romance novels, Delia begins her mid-life crisis by having an affair with Adrian, a newly divorced younger man she met at the supermarket….a fine place to pick up a man. Yes, no? But she realized later that the affair was nothing more than a fantasy….a fantasy of being young and in love again.
Well, if you are expecting adventure or romance, you won’t find it here.
The story starts to get more interesting in chapter 8 when Delia’s husband writes to her, assuring her that he will not invade her privacy. Oh, no! she did not think about that possibility before. Now she is trapped in a small town, with no husband rushing to fetch her. It is going to be a long winter. Cold and empty.
Here at Bay Borough, away from home in Baltimore, Delia spent Thanksgiving with her new landlady, Belle, a 38-year old outspoken woman wants to get married desperately. She cries over the fact that all the decent men in town are either married or otherwise unattractive to her. She thinks that a woman cannot possibly be happy unless she is married. What a frightening thought. It is unrealistic to rely on somebody else for your happiness. Wake up, Belle.
Through her new employer’s son, Noah, the boy Delia is taking care of, she met Noah’s grandfather, Nat, in a retirement home where he is a resident. Nat is an interesting man full of his own ideas about life. And he was not joking when he announced his decision to marry a woman half his age. He did. They had a baby boy soon after the wedding. You may be wondering whether you should envy his late romance or feel sorry for him. One thing for sure, he will have to raise his new family in a retirement home. Ideally anything is possible. Practically, can he really raise his family?
Noah’s mother, Ellie, felt trapped in the marriage and wanted to get out. And she did. Now working at a local TV broadcasting company as a weather woman, separated from her husband, she is still very disturbed by the fact that she might have made a mistake by leaving her family. So what stopped her from going back? If she asks Delia for advice,
Good luck to both of them.
Sometimes it is important and even necessary to look at life from a distance once in a while. You have to find out what you really want. Most of all, you need to know what you are and be able to accept it. In Delia’s case, she took a long trip to learn about herself. While living her new life with new people, new responsibilities and new problems, she found out that she was just as much lost as when she was home with her husband. No matter where she is she still has to face life as it comes. As I was told many times, life is about solving problems rather than unrealistic expectations. The big problem here is to determine what is realistic and what is not.
Although the story is a little slow, LADDER OF YEARS can be good reading material. It is more so if you are a true Anne Tyler fan.