NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning author—a funny, joyful, brilliantly perceptive journey deep into one Baltimore family’s foibles, from a boyfriend with a red Chevy in the 1950s up to a longed-for reunion with a grandchild in our pandemic present.
The Garretts take their first and last family vacation in the summer of 1959. They hardly ever leave home, but in some ways they have never been farther apart. Mercy has trouble resisting the siren call of her aspirations to be a painter, which means less time keeping house for her husband, Robin. Their teenage daughters, steady Alice and boy-crazy Lily, could not have less in common. Their youngest, David, is already intent on escaping his family's orbit, for reasons none of them understand. Yet, as these lives advance across decades, the Garretts' influences on one another ripple ineffably but unmistakably through each generation.
Full of heartbreak and hilarity, French Braid is classic Anne Tyler: a stirring, uncannily insightful novel of tremendous warmth and humor that illuminates the kindnesses and cruelties of our daily lives, the impossibility of breaking free from those who love us, and how close—yet how unknowable—every family is to itself.
Tyler (Redhead by the Side of the Road) returns with a dry and well-crafted look at a family that inexplicably comes apart over several decades. Serena Drew, a 20-something Baltimore grad student traveling with her boyfriend, James, thinks she recognizes her cousin, Nicholas Garrett, in the crowd at a Philadelphia train station in 2010, but she can't say for sure because she hasn't seen him for years. "You guys give a whole new meaning to the phrase once removed,' " James says, and wonders if "some deep dark secret" might explain why Serena rarely sees her aunt Alice or her uncle David, Nicholas's father. But the explanation, as it happens, is not so simple. This also turns out not to be Serena's story, as Tyler leaves the young couple for late 1950s Baltimore, where Alice; Serena's mother, Lily; and David are raised by their mismatched parents, a socially awkward plumber named Robin and begrudging housewife Mercy, who wants to be an artist. Once the parents become empty nesters, Mercy spends most of her days and nights in her neighboring studio. There are no big reveals, but Tyler's focus on character development proves fruitful; a reunion organized by the wistful Robin in the '90s is particularly affecting, as is a coda with David during the Covid-19 pandemic. As always, Tyler offers both comfort and surprise.
I also am a big Tyler fan. Her stories are always about people that I feel like I know so when the book is finished I feel a little like I lost a friend and want to somehow stay in touch. French Braid is a little different. The book’s main characters, the Garrets live like most of us do, for years that are reported as the family grows. It’s a little different format for Tyler. I loved it.
I am a Tyler fan
I am a major Anne Tyler fan and enjoy all her books. This one I enjoyed best up to the year 2020 chapter. The character David was never made compelling and the focus on him did not interest me as much as the others. So I think the book lost a bit of its grip for me at the end.