The opening lines of Ron Charles' Washington Post review of Anne Tyler's latest suggest why for many people she tends to remain a faded memory:
The appearance of a new novel by Anne Tyler is like the arrival of an old friend. And if you have an old friend, you know that such meetings don't always deliver anything new. It's mostly updates, the pleasure of reciting inside jokes, revisiting familiar legends and only then, possibly, the promise of some fresh development. But who's peevish enough to complain about the limits of a reunion?
Oh, enough of us, rightly or wrongly. Everyone I know who reads always has some fond memory of an Anne Tyler novel, but it's always somewhere years before. I think people discover her, love her, decide they'll read every book she's ever written -- and then burn out after about four or five, worn down by the sweetness, or the gentle warmth, or the way her characterizations are both acute and humane, or any of her other dependable virtues. It's not unusual for readers tro get to the point where they take a break from Anne Tyler and never go back. You burn out. A lot of her goes a long way.
Which is not to say I don't have execeedingly fine memories of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant -- my favorite of the lot, and a great family novel to go back to -- or The Accidental Tourist, Celestial Navigations, Earthly Possessionsor Morgan's Passing. I bailed after Breathing Lessons, which I think won the Pulitzer.
Anyway, the new book sounds good. But then they all sound good, and they all get the same kind of decent, respectable reviews.