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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Extraordinariness Of Ordinary People

Saint Maybe - Anne Tyler

Poignant, good-humoured and full of the quirky details that make up everyday life, Saint Maybe is vintage Anne Tyler. It's the story of Ian, a young man who feels he is responsible for his brother's suicide and spends the rest of his life trying to atone for what he has done, in the process giving up his own ambitions and taking responsibility for the care of his brother's step-children.

Although the majority of the narrative is seen from Ian's point of view, we also get glimpses of his world from the perspective of other characters because, as so often with Anne Tyler, this is a story about a family, its development, maturity and ultimate fragmentation. We see the effect that individual characters have on each other and how this plays into the evolving dynamic of family life.

In places the novel feels rather dated but that's also part of its charm. Opening in the late nineteen sixties and following its characters for the next twenty years, it's a closely observed vision of America at a particular time in history - a parochial story that somehow manages to be universal at the same time. These are not larger than life characters. They are fallible, limited and often confused but still somehow capable of a kind of heroism and that is Anne Tyler's theme: the extraorinariness of ordinary people.