Ladder of Years

Ladder of Years

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Overview

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

BALTIMORE WOMAN DISAPPEARS DURING FAMILY VACATION, declares the headline. Forty-year-old Delia Grinstead is last seen strolling down the Delaware shore, wearing nothing more than a bathing suit and carrying a beach tote with five hundred dollars tucked inside. To her husband and three almost-grown children, she has vanished without trace or reason. But for Delia, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family's edges, "walking away from it all" is not a premeditated act, but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting, and unimagined life . . . .

"TYLER DETAILS DELIA'S ADVENTURE WITH GREAT SKILL . . . As so often in her earlier fiction—Celestial Navigation, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, and her nine other novels—[she] creates distinct characters caught in poignantly funny situations. . . .Tyler writes with a clarity that makes the commonplace seem fresh and the pathetic touching."
The New York Times

"UTTERLY COMPELLING. . .WONDERFULLY SATISFYING. . .Ladder of Years is virtually flawless."
Chicago Tribune

"A 'PAGE-TURNER' IN THE BEST SENSE . . . One wants to lightly caress the pages of the story because one cares for Ms. Tyler's touchingly flawed characters. . . . Both madcap and genteel, Anne Tyler knows as well as anyone that 'human beings lead many lives.' Casually, delightfully, Ladder of Years will tell you just how we humans manage this trick."
The Baltimore Sun

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781531885953
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her 17th novel. Her 11th, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hometown:

Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

October 25, 1941

Place of Birth:

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Education:

B.A., Duke University, 1961

Reading Group Guide

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
BALTIMORE WOMAN DISAPPEARS DURING FAMILY VACATION, declares the headline. Forty-year-old Delia Grinstead is last seen strolling down the Delaware shore, wearing nothing more than a bathing suit and carrying a beach tote with five hundred dollars tucked inside. To her husband and three almost-grown children, she has vanished without trace or reason. But for Delia, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around her family's edges, "walking away from it all" is not a premeditated act, but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting, and unimagined life . . . .
"TYLER DETAILS DELIA'S ADVENTURE WITH GREAT SKILL . . . As so often in her earlier fiction--Celestial Navigation, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, and her nine other novels--[she] creates distinct characters caught in poignantly funny situations. . . .Tyler writes with a clarity that makes the commonplace seem fresh and the pathetic touching."
--The New York Times
"UTTERLY COMPELLING. . .WONDERFULLY SATISFYING. . .Ladder of Years is virtually flawless."
--Chicago Tribune
"A 'PAGE-TURNER' IN THE BEST SENSE . . . One wants to lightly caress the pages of the story because one cares for Ms. Tyler's touchingly flawed characters. . . . Both madcap and genteel, Anne Tyler knows as well as anyone that 'human beings lead many lives.' Casually, delightfully, Ladder of Years will tell you just how we humans manage this trick."
--The Baltimore Sun

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 severalgenerations 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?

Foreword

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?

Customer Reviews

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Ladder of Years 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a 45 year old man, I found Delia to be expressing my emotions perfectly. And since she has, now I don't need to leave my wife of 23 years. I admire Tyler's courage and skill in portraying the nagging unfulfillment and downright rejection we feel in our marriages and families, while still believing in the power of marriage and family to connect and support each other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was too slow paced and predictable. I reccomend it for adults, because they would most likely understand married life better, but it is good for young adults and teens too. There is some intimate kissing, but no sex,if that's what your worried about. I didnt think it was worth the money, but you might disagree. Try it and see. You might enjoy it.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Delia+is+delicious.++Every+character+is+so+identifiable.++Couldn%E2%80%99t+stop+reading%21
LaBibliophille on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While on a family beach vacation, 40 year old Baltimore resident Dee Grinstead strolls down the beach and disappears. She is wearing nothing but a bathing suit and carrying a tote bag containing her husband's robe and $500, the family's vacation money. It is hours before her family realizes that she is missing. Anne Tyler's bestseller (albeit of 14 years ago), follows Dee as she walks to the family's vacation rental cottage. Dee then begs a ride from a handyman, and gets out in the town of Bay Borough, Maryland.In short order, Dee acquires a place to live, a job, and a small wardrobe. By the time her family finds her, Dee is well ensconced in her new life, and has no wish to return to her husband, her three children and her sisters. They are, of course, hurt and uncomprehending, but this is not their story. It is Dee's. She feels unloved by her husband, and unappreciated by everyone else.When Dee had been gone over a year, she receives a wedding invitation from her daughter. When she returns to the family home, we begin to first learn about matters from the family's perspective.For me, the most telling part of the book is in the beginning. Dee's family is unable to describe her accurately to the police. No wonder Dee just up and left them! This book is sad and perplexing. Who hasn't wanted to escape their life, but who actually does?It's hard to imagine that this book could have been written by anyone but such a talented writer as the Pulitzer Prize winning Anne Tyler. And what does Ladder of Years mean? You'll have to read this for a very touching explanation.My only complaint is that, written 15 years ago, it does seem dated, and I keep wondering why the police don't just ping Dee's cell phone! Oh yeah-nobody in this story has one.
dawnlovesbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i love anne tyler but i got bored with this one, although i loved the premise of the book.
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think every married woman with children who is overworked and unappreciated imagines just walking away from it all and just being ALONE. Delia Grindstead does just that, much to the shock of her family. The characters were written like real people, quirks and all, and jumped off the page, and the story was excellent right up until the end. So as not to spoil the book for others, I will only say that the ending was a disappointment and did not live up to the expectations that were created by the rest of the book.
DowntownLibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Haven't we all, at some point, wanted to walk away from it all? Here is the story of a woman who did just that. Very readable and an excellent book club pick.
caroline123 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ladder of Years is one of my favorite books ever. The idea of just walking away from everything and beginning again where nobody knows you is such an intriguing idea and wonderfully written by Anne Tyler.
cranmergirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Anne Tyler book! I read this many years ago but I have never forgotten what a fun read it was. It must have been during a time when I was feeling particularly under appreciated by my family, as I think most wives and mothers do at some point, because I found myself relating to the protagonist and cheering her on. This book should be read in the spirit in which I believe it was written and not taken too seriously. It's just a chick fantasy book with a happy ending. Enjoy!
bardin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know why I enjoy Anne Tyler as much as I do. All her books focus on a middle-aged woman living in Baltimore, usually with 3 children who are screwed up in some way or another, and not alot actually happens. However, her writing really is impressive. This book is my favorite, just because the story is the most interesting of all her books that I've read. I'm always a sucker for a person who just decides to completely abandon the life they are living.
porchsitter55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely LOVED this quirky story. I laughed out loud....Anne Tyler is the best at making the simplest characters so memorable and so totally funny!
smallwonder56 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite of all Anne Tyler's books, but you might have to be a mother to understand it. In this book she describes the ways in which women "disappear" into their families. Sooner or later, if you're a woman who thinks, you need to dig yourself back out again, and this is what the main character does. I read a book a few years ago about another woman who runs away from home and there's a line in the book that goes something like, "Show me a woman who's never fantasized about grabbing the keys, getting in the car and driving away and I'll show you a woman who doesn't know how to drive."
mhgatti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ladder of Years tackles a weighty topic - an unappreciated wife/mother who, in an attempt to start her life over again free of her daily obligations, suddenly walks out on her family. Tyler writes it as a kind of fairy tale (an old wife's tale, maybe?), happening in a world where a missing person can start a new life undiscovered without leaving her home state or even changing her name.Even if you can suspend your disbelief of that setup it's hard to really care about the protagonist, who seems to have selfishly traded one predictable life for the comfort of a different, but just as predictable, life. Tyler keeps the story moving along at a good pace, so I never felt like I wanted to give up on the book, but I can't say it was a very satisfying read. A so-so novel from a great novelist, Ladder is my least enjoyable of Tyler's books so far.
tikilights on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book grew on me and I really started to like it as the plot progressed. In the beginning, Delia was beyond obnoxious, but she went through a subtle change in maturity that made her endearing in the end. I can understand the complaints about the book, but I think her escape to a new life of the same mediocrity was on the side of selfishness and immaturity, not her being a ditz. She needed to grow up, and her bad decisions at least helped her in that. However, I still don't like how she abandoned a total of 2 families in her "self-discovery".
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ladder of Years is a tale about Delia who suddenly leaves her family while vacationing at the beach. Tired of her unappreciative children, belittling husband and demanding sisters - plus still mourning the loss of her father - Delia impulsively leaves them on their beach blankets and takes off for a small town. There, she gets her first job, her first place and her first business clothes.Then, she learns that working for others is difficult and takes a job as a nanny for a young boy and his divorced father. In effect, she trades one family for another. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will propose that Delia had the potential to really grow in her journey - but she didn't. She missed her opportunity to become the woman she wanted to be.I usually enjoy Anne Tyler's books because she develops her characters so beautifully. This is not the case in Ladder of Years. Overall, I was very disappointed with the story and character development. I felt no sense of attachment, usually losing my patience with Delia's simplemindedness. This is definitely not one of Tyler's best works.
Kelslynn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On a summer vacation with her doctor husband and almost grown children, Delia Grinstead begins a walk on the beach...and just keeps on walking out of their lives. She hitches a ride to a town called Bay Borough where she knows no one and begins her life over again. She chooses to live a spartan life, to divulge little information about herself to others, and to develop a daily/weekly routine that suits her just fine. I believe she walked away because she felt she had become invisible to her family, putting their needs and desires before her own (like many mothers). In her new role she had only to think about herself. Slowly, unwittingly she begins to have a circle of friends: people recognize her and include her in their activities.When her only daughter invites Delia to her wedding, Delia accepts and returns to her home, not knowing how her husband, her children, her relatives, and old friends will accept her. However, she falls back into the old familiar patterns without hesitation.I optimistically think Delia will now have two bodies of people who care about her, and those two bodies will enrich each other. : )
aimless22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An intriguing look at marriage, womanhood and inner demons. The demons are not the type with horns and pitchforks. I would categorize them as those lurking thoughts that never seem to leave a person's consciousness. All the 'what ifs' of life.Delia Grinstead is a married mother of three with a settled life in the home she grew up in. Call it a mid-life crisis or just a spur-of-the-moment concept, but she walks down the beach while on the annual family vacation and just keeps going.She sets up a new life for herself in a small town. Perhaps too conveniently, she finds a place to live and a job within moments of getting to this town. The idea of running away, of starting from scratch is a romantic vision. Delia's main desire appears to be time alone and she does get that. But she also cannot fully escape into her new life.Each person who reads this story will have to determine for themselves which of her choices they would select. Someone who is feeling stuck in their current relationship may wish for one outcome while another who may not be in a relationship at all may choose the opposite. A man may foresee the final outcome while a woman may be disappointed or vice-versa.Just as each well realized character lives their own lives alongside Delia, each reader envisions their own wish for the end. What would you do? What would I do? How would my family react? Would my friends support or denounce me?The novel really makes readers think about possibilities, both for Delia and for themselves.
banderson1973 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've never forgotten the opening of this, when a missing woman's family is unable to accurately describe her. An excellent view of the complacency that sometimes occurs within families.
siri51 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tyler is a good story teller but many of her charaters are in need of some sort of counselling.
LisMB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Have you ever thought of walking away from your life. Starting over? That is exactly what happens in this book. The subject intrigued me and I was not disappointed with this well expressed story.
FireandIce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not really a fan of so-called "chick lit", but this wasn't bad. The premise of the story is a forty-something housewife, Delia, becomes fed up with being ignored and marginalized by her husband, sisters and children and simply walks away from all of them during a beach vacation. Delia hitches a ride to a small town and begins to build a new life and rediscovers herself.I wouldn't call this book fantastic, but it's entertaining enough to pass the time on a beach blanket, in an airport, etc.
jepeters333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Woman runs away from her family and ends up living in a small town.
whirled on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Delia Grinstead has become part of the furniture in her own life to the extent that her family can't provide a detailed physical description of her whilst reporting her disappearance to the police. After a lifetime of dependence and dull routine, she walks out in favour of a life of independence....and dull routine. I must confess I kept waiting for Delia to do something more exciting with her new-found freedom.An intriguing premise, and one I think a writer of Anne Tyler's calibre could have done more with.
SandDune on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't read an awful lot of Anne Tyler which is surprising as I really enjoyed The Accidental Tourist which I read years ago. I picked this up under the impression that it was a new book, which confused me rather when I started reading it as the main character just didn't seem believable for a contemporary novel. Then I noticed that it was first published in 1982 and it made a lot more sense.Delia Grinstead is the wife of a family doctor and mother to two teenage boys and a girl. Married at 18 to her father's assistant, she has always lived in the same house in the same town. Increasingly, her family don't seem to need her or even to particularly notice that she's around. When she realises that her husband had thought about marrying one of her father's three daughters before he had even met them, so that he would inherit the practice, she becomes disillusioned with her life. Initially beginning a (very chaste) affair with a man she meets in the supermarket, she eventually walks away from her family on a beach holiday and does not return. And it's symptomatic of her place in the family that no one is sure about her height, or her eye colour, or what she was wearing.Anne Tyler paints the day- to- day realities of family life very well in this novel, and it's reminded me that I need to read more by her.
stacyinthecity on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is kind of a sad book about a wife who one day, without any forethought, just sort of walks away from it all. Almost by accident, that she doesn't realize what she has done until its done.What follows is a year of her self descovery. Who is she? She moved from her father's house to her husband's house without ever moving. She's never had a chance to try and make it on her own. She sets out to make her own life for herself and then must decide if she wants to ever return.