French Braid

French Braid


In her 24th novel, Anne Tyler offers a funny and wise meditation on the enduring imprint of one’s family of origin. This multigenerational story portrays life with the Garrett family of Baltimore over a sixty-year span, beginning with a rare vacation in 1959 and ending in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In vignettes set every ten years or so, the common thread is the little kindnesses and cruelties that characterize the family, along with their constitutional inability to share their true thoughts and emotions with each other. In the final pages, one character compares the indelible imprint of his family to his daughter’s French braid: “That’s how families work,” he says. “You think you’re free of them, but you’re never really free; the ripples are crimped in forever.” The family may be exasperating, but the book is anything but. I loved this. For fans of Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road and Elizabeth Strout’s Oh, William!

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About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning author—a funny, joyful, brilliantly perceptive journey deep into one Baltimore family’s foibles, from a boyfriend with a red Chevy in the 1950s up to a longed-for reunion with a grandchild in our pandemic present.

The Garretts take their first and last family vacation in the summer of 1959. They hardly ever leave home, but in some ways they have never been farther apart. Mercy has trouble resisting the siren call of her aspirations to be a painter, which means less time keeping house for her husband, Robin. Their teenage daughters, steady Alice and boy-crazy Lily, could not have less in common. Their youngest, David, is already intent on escaping his family’s orbit, for reasons none of them understand. Yet, as these lives advance across decades, the Garretts’ influences on one another ripple ineffably but unmistakably through each generation.

Full of heartbreak and hilarity, French Braid is classic Anne Tyler: a stirring, uncannily insightful novel of tremendous warmth and humor that illuminates the kindnesses and cruelties of our daily lives, the impossibility of breaking free from those who love us, and how close—yet how unknowable—every family is to itself.

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