Tyler’s 24th novel is the latest addition to the remarkable human comedy she has spun over the last half century, mainly set in Baltimore. It is an artful mix of several recurrent elements in her work, along with some new twists, including the coronavirus pandemic. The appeal, as always, is in being privy to the feelings, insecurities, uncertainties, and peculiarities of ordinary people who come alive in Tyler’s hands. The wonder of French Braid is the easygoing fluidity with which Tyler jumps and floats between characters and decades to create what in the end is a deftly crafted family portrait that spans some 70 years ... what a wonderful litter she’s sent out into the world.
Few writers are so widely loved and respected as the creator of 'family novels', a genre Tyler has perfected by bringing her quiet wisdom and gentle prose style to bear on the hidden corners of domestic life. She has strayed into slightly more diverse territory recently, but her fans will be delighted to know that her latest book marks a return to the form of her most popular work ... This is Tyler at her most Tyler-ish: pleasant and inoffensive, yet surprisingly deep and moving. Critics who write her off as folksy might remember that folk tales, with their dark hearts, endure longer and cut deeper than more sophisticated forms. So will the work of this beloved teller of secret, ordinary truths.
This, blessedly, is now Anne Tyler’s fourth novel since she suggested that 2015’s A Spool of Blue Thread was going to be her last ... French Braid returns to type: a multigenerational ensemble piece that will have fans marking their Tyler bingo cards ... Tyler has a keen eye for the way small moments can have unpredictable effects in a family’s understanding of one another ... Among the ironies of Tyler’s reputation as a writer of domestic fiction – that loaded term – is that she’s a shrewd observer of masculinity ... The novel [has a] nicely relaxed sense that Tyler isn’t squeezing her characters into a design so much as just letting them be. And yet there’s nothing slack about it ... French Braid may not upend a fan’s ranking of Tyler’s novels...but it’s thoroughly enjoyable, and at this point any Tyler book is a gift. Funny, poignant, generous, not shying away from death and disappointment but never doomy or overwrought, it suggests there’s always new light to be shed, whatever the situation, with just another turn of the prism.