Ladder of Years

Ladder of Years

by Anne Tyler

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"BALTIMORE WOMAN DISAPPEARS DURING FAMILY VACATION." The headlines are all the same: Beloved mother and wife Delia Grinstead was last seen strolling down the Delaware shore, wearing only a bathing suit and carrying a beach tote with five hundred dollars tucked inside. To the best of her family's knowledge, she has disappeared without a trace.
But Delia didn't disappear. She ran.
Exhausted with her routine and everyone else's plans for her, Delia needed an out, a chance to make a new life for herself and to become a different person. The new Delia can let go of all the hurt and resentment that left her stuck in her past. As she eagerly sheds the pieces of herself she no longer needs, Delia discovers feelings of passion and wonder she'd long since forgotten. The thrill of walking away from it all leads to a newfound sense of self and the feeling that she is, finally, the star of her own life story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307434340
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/02/2010
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 119,137
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941, but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. Anne Tyler has written thirteen novels. Breathing Lessons was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She and her husband, Taghi Modarressi, live in Baltimore, Maryland.


Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

October 25, 1941

Place of Birth:

Minneapolis, Minnesota


B.A., Duke University, 1961

Reading Group Guide

1. Why did Delia walk away from her family on that Delaware beach? And why did she stay away for so long?

2.Delia has always lived in a very crowded house. Discuss the pressures and rewards of several generations living under one roof.

3.Why doesn’t any member of Delia’s family ask her to come home? Do you think it would have made a difference?

4.Discuss how the world Dr. Felson once inhabited changes after his death.

5.Do you think the father’s death has freed the Felson sisters in some way?

6.Do you think Linda’s relationship with Sam mirrors her relationship with her father?

7.Delia and Ellie are both judged harshly for their decision to leave their families. Do you think society judges mothers more harshly than fathers if they leave?

8.At the beginning of the novel, Delia sees herself as “a tiny gnat, whirring around her family’s edges”? How does her perspective change over the course of the novel?

9.Eliza insists that Delia has memories of their mother and Delia is incensed that Sam does not remember their very first meeting. Discuss the conflict that arises in this novel over the individualistic and idiosyncratic nature of family history and memory.

10.At the end of the novel, Delia concludes that “the people she had left behind had actually traveled further, in some ways.” What does she mean?

11.Delia concludes that “[u]nlike Nat’s . . . hers had been a time trip that worked.” Do you agree?

12.Do you think Nat and Binky will persevere despite all the obstacles in their path?

13.Delia has to learn how to dine out alone. What other kinds of public activities are awkward to do solo? Does it differ for men and for women?

14.Belle says, “[M]ost folks marry just because they decide they’ve reached that stage . . . Then they pick someone out.” Do you agree?

15.Do you think Eliza has been pining for Sam for all those years?

16.Delia finds support in unexpected places and from unexpected people. Did Eleanor’s support surprise you?

17.Eleanor tells Delia that after her husband’s death reading the dictionary comforted and distracted her. Discuss rituals and habits that offer comfort in times of need.

18.What do you think of the ending of this novel? Does it make emotional sense to you?

19.Share your favorite description of a character with the group.

20.What would you ask the author if you could interview her?

21.Did your group enjoy this novel? How does it compare with other works your group has read?

22.What is your group reading next? How do you make your selections?

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