Sometimes you just want to read a book that feels real, you know? A book that speaks to life as you know it, a book that reveals truths to you about individuals, families, and indeed, human existence. And you can count on author Anne Tyler for that, particularly in her latest book, French Braid.
The story opens in the late 1950s, with an East Coast family going to spend part of their summer at a lake house. The family is a mother, a father, two teenage girls, and a much younger boy. What I liked most about these chapters is how Tyler shows the emotional distance between family members while they are spending time in close proximity to one another. The themes of intimacy and distance are present throughout the novel. The story ends in the beginning months of 2020, when the pandemic is affecting everyone’s lives.
I enjoyed this thoughtful, humorous, slightly bittersweet look at family life and family dynamics. It’s refreshing to read a family story about family members who just aren’t all that close, and what that looks like over the course of decades. The novel is written in third person limited, and Tyler is excellent at shifting point of view among her characters. I enjoyed the well-developed characters and the exquisite portrayal of the everyday. The relationships portrayed are all kinds of family relationships; between marriage partners, siblings, cousins, in-laws.
If you like character-driven fiction, this one’s for you!
Other Slice of Life fiction books include:
Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny
Marrying the Ketchups by Jennifer Close
This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel