Probable Stories — F3 — French Braid by Anne Tyler


I am Jim McKeownwelcome to Likely Stories, a weekly magazine of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1941 and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of more than twenty novels. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland. French braid is another one of his novels, all of which are closest to my heart.

French braid is a family story. To start, “The Garrett family didn’t take a family vacation until 1959. Robbin Garrett, Alice’s dad, says they couldn’t afford it. Moreover, at first he refused to leave the store in someone else’s hands. It was Grandpa Wellington’s store, that’s why – Wellington Plumbing Supply, handed over to Robin’s care only reluctantly and suspiciously after Grandpa Wellington had his first heart attack. So of course Robin had to prove himself, working six days a week and bringing the books home every Saturday for Alice’s mother to look at in case he was wrong somewhere. Let’s face it: he was not a born businessman” (23).

The family consisted of Robin, his wife Mercy and two children. Allice was a devoted mother and David, a rather peculiar child, did well, all things considered. To continue: “On the morning of September 6, 1970 – a clear and cool Sunday, but far from a failure for the time being – Robin and Mercy Garrett drove their son, David, to Islington, Pennsylvania, to begin his first year at Islington College. They put him up in his room, they introduced themselves to his roommate (a nice enough boy, it seems, but not half as nice as his boy, (thank you felt), and they said goodbye and left. //

For most of the drive home, they were silent. Sometimes they would say things like “These walls could have used a coat of paint, in my opinion” (this from Robin) and “I wonder if David will remember a single word of my laundry instructions” (from Mercy ). But usually they remained immersed in that kind of silence that radiates unspoken thoughts – complicated and contradictory thoughts cluttered the air inside the car” (61).

“Monday morning, as soon as Robin left for work, Mercy went to her closet and retrieved a flattened carton of Sunkist that she was picking up at the supermarket. She opened it, reinforced the bottom with duct tape and began to peel it. fill with clothes” (62). “On Pert Road, she took a right at the third house from the corner – a white clapboard house with a small uneven lawn – and followed a worn path to the garage A flimsy-looking wooden staircase ran up one side. She climbed it and unlocked the door to her studio. // It wasn’t the kind of studio originally intended to be lived in. At some point , someone must have arranged it for a teenage son eager to leave home or a husband eager to have a den. […]

The French braid of Anne Tyler is a pleasant family, up to a point. But there is a lot of love in this home. 10 stars!

Likely Stories is a KWBU production. I am Jim McKeown. Join me next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

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