Earthly Possessions

Reading Anne Tyler’s novel Earthly Possessions I couldn’t help but think there was a high school English teacher out there somewhere just dying to hand me a list of questions to consider.

On face value this is a rather simple book – a woman unhappy with her life walks into a bank and leaves as the hostage of the bank robber.  The two make a getaway and forge some sort of a sick road adventure together.  While reading I had the distinct feeling that the author was desperately trying to convince me that there was something terribly deep happening here.  That I was supposed to have flashes of insight during the flashback scenes.

However, having reading Saint Maybe last year, I found this book rather disappointing.  So many of the same elements are there – people unhappy in their lives, bad circumstances and weird religious overtones.  In this case they didn’t come together that well.  Perhaps it was that I was disappointed after Saint Maybe.  Perhaps it is because I just read Gilead a week ago and this book fails by comparison.  This is not the highlight of Anne Tyler’s career.

Having said all that, there are passages of good writing.  You do come to feel for Charlotte and reading the flashbacks become a bit like driving by an accident on the highway – you can’t help but look.

I can’t highly recommend this book.  If you’re looking for a good book by Anne Tyler, read Saint Maybe.  If you’re looking for fiction with scriptural overtones, read Gilead.


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