Tyler’s 22nd novel brims with the qualities that have brought her legions of fans and high critical acclaim. Characters pulse with lifelikeness. The tone flickers between humorous relish and sardonic shrewdness. Dialogue crackles with authenticity. Beneath it all is an insistence that it’s never too soon to recognize how quickly life can speed by and never too late to make vitalizing changes. Unillusioned but uncynical, fascinated by family dynamics and the tension between independence and involvement, Clock Dance is a warmly appealing tale of timely recuperation.
Like Dickens, Tyler sketches a well-peopled larger community, bustling with friends, lovers and bit players. But the book’s real action centers on Willa and how, in lending Denise and especially Cheryl some of her steadiness and predictability, she reclaims something of her younger self: a bolder, messier person than the superficial one she’d become, the 'cheery and polite and genteel' woman who ended up living near a golf course and wearing expensive clothes ...the novels of Anne Tyler seem simple because she makes the very difficult look easier than it is. Her books are smarter and more interesting than they might appear on the surface; then again, so are our mothers.
One of Ms. Tyler’s most appealing talents is difficult to illustrate in brief, as it’s typically the happy outcome of page after page of careful accretion: a gift for evoking the moment when the heart goes out, when a mute call for sympathy sparks a responsive note in another’s breast ... Clock Dance is a double Cinderella story. Readers will quickly gather that Willa has embarked—willy-nilly, not always consciously—on a psychic transformation. What clarifies more slowly is that Cheryl is likewise metamorphosing ... If Willa’s journey is ultimately less moving than, say, Macon’s in The Accidental Tourist, I blame Peter, Willa’s husband. He’s a good provider, I suppose, and intelligent and good-looking. But there’s nothing formidable about him, and Willa’s gradual emancipation from his self-absorption and condescension lacks the drama that might arise were he more oppressor than pest.