Ladder Of Years

by Anne Tyler

Hardcover, 1995

Call number




Knopf (1995), Edition: 1st Trade Ed, 325 pages


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member CatieN
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member smallwonder56
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
Show More
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."
Show Less
LibraryThing member banderson1973
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.
LibraryThing member mhgatti
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mrstreme
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member whirled
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member dawnlovesbooks
i love anne tyler but i got bored with this one, although i loved the premise of the book.
LibraryThing member siri51
Tyler is a good story teller but many of her charaters are in need of some sort of counselling.
LibraryThing member bardin
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member cranmergirl
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
Show More
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!
Show Less
LibraryThing member caroline123
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.
LibraryThing member DowntownLibrarian
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.
LibraryThing member momofpets
Liked this very much. Delia walks away from her family and moves to another town.
LibraryThing member porchsitter55
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!
LibraryThing member jepeters333
Woman runs away from her family and ends up living in a small town.
LibraryThing member LaBibliophille
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member tikilights
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
Show More
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".
Show Less
LibraryThing member FireandIce
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
With her usual genius for bringing very ordinary people into sharp focus, Tyler tells the story of Delia Grinstead, a 40-year old mother of three who literally walks away from her life without plan or purpose in the middle of a family beach vacation. Not surprisingly, she finds that starting over
Show More
"from scratch" isn't as simple as she tries to make it. The story feels absolutely "true"-- I believe every sentence, every action, and never have that "Oh why don't you just (insert advice here) already!" feeling. And Tyler makes me chuckle over the simple little daily moments that I laugh at in my own life. I think sometimes it's easy to overlook her humor---she's so often gently poking fun at her characters, but with love. I was not at all surprised by the ending, but it did come on a bit abruptly. Otherwise, nary a quibble with this one. Oh, wait, yes, one more---was it absolutely necessary to include an unlikeable character named Linda????
Show Less
LibraryThing member aimless22
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member stacyinthecity
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
5734. Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler (read 8 Feb 2021) This novel, published in1995, is the 10th book by Anne Tyler I have read. It is a typical Tyler work, with odd people doing odd things. Delia Grinstead, wife of a Baltimore doctor, on the beach with her family, walks off and goes to a Maryland
Show More
town here she finds a room and a job. She does not contact her husband nor her three children, ages 21, 19, and 15. He family soon find her but she stays in her new place and has minimum contact with her family. One has no idea whether she will ever return to her husband and children. She is invited to her daughter's wedding and there are many complicated happenings. The fact that I give the book four stars, however, may tell you something about the way the book ends.
Show Less
LibraryThing member flydodofly
Loved the idea and the frailty of characters, but was very much disappointed by the end. Although it does seem logical, really. I just hoped for a little more courage, I suppose.
Quote: Delia wondered how humans could bear to live in a world where the passage of time held so much power.
LibraryThing member Kelslynn
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
Show More
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. : )
Show Less
LibraryThing member moonshineandrosefire
"Baltimore Woman Disappears During Family Vacation" declares the newspaper headline. Forty-year-old Cordelia Grinstead is last seen strolling along a Delaware beach, wearing nothing more than a bathing suit and carrying a beach tote with five hundred dollars tucked inside. To her husband, Sam and
Show More
three almost-grown children, she has vanished without trace or reason. However, for Delia, who feels like a tiny gnat buzzing around the edge of her own family, "walking away from it all" is not a premeditated act but an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting and unencumbered life.

In a nearby town, Delia reinvents herself - getting her first job, finding her first place, and buying her first business suit. She becomes a serious and independent-minded woman with no ties. However, soon after Delia begins her exciting, unencumbered life, fresh responsibilities inevitably accumulate.

I really enjoyed this story. It drew me in completely and I was curious to see how the story would eventually turn out for all the characters. I give this book an A+! and look forward to reading more books by Anne Tyler.
Show Less




0679441557 / 9780679441557
Page: 0.3174 seconds