Ladder of Years: A Novel
Anne Tyler tells the story of a 40-year-old woman, the mother of three almost-grown children, who on a sudden impulse walks away from her marriage, hitches a ride into the unknown, and settles in a strange new town to invent a new life.
What propels Delia Grinstead, the wife of a Baltimore physician, as she is spending another rainy vacation with husband, children, and assorted relatives? Is it old hurts and humiliations that surface this particular summer in the family-infested beach cottage? The feeling that she has become expendable? The memory, perhaps, of that angular young man in the supermarket who asked her to pose as his girlfriend when he runs into his ex-wife? Or is it simply the lure of the local repairman’s beautifully self-sufficient van, sailing off, unencumbered?
Whatever. Delia takes off, wearing only her swimsuit and her husband’s beach robe, and doesn’t stop until she is suddenly captivated by a quiet little tree-lined town. There she halts the van, hops off, finds a stark room to rent, and settles in. So begins her new, impersonal life as Ms. Grinstead. But inevitably the world crowds in. New friends, new responsibilities, accumulate—from a stray cat who craves a home to a sad, deserted husband and his little boy who need her to fill a hole in their lives.