Celestial Navigation (1974)

by Anne Tyler

Anne Tylerís novels are known for their happy endings. Her eccentric characters typically achieve some sort of redemption. Celestial Navigation breaks the mold.

We meet 38-year-old Jeremy Pauling after his doting motherís death in Baltimore, Tylerís usual setting. Jeremy is a reclusive, shy artist who lived with his mother in her rooming house. Today weíd likely say he is on the autism spectrum. Refusing to move to Richmond to live with his two sisters, he manages to muddle through his days with some help from the boarders, who eventually include Mary Tell and her preschool daughter. Mary has run away from her husband.

Jeremy falls for Mary, who is unemployed and penniless and marries him. The story jumps ahead to their surprisingly having a large brood of children ó six eventually. Jeremy gradually achieves some recognition for his mosaic sculptures, but Mary canít tolerate life with him anymore and leaves with the kids.

If Tyler was trying to present a portrait of a troubled but brilliant artist, she didnít wholly succeed. Jeremy comes across as so inept itís hard to imagine that he can create anything. His relationship with Mary, and her feelings for him, are hard to understand.

If youíre reading Tyler for the first time, there are novels that are more characteristic of her ó and better.


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