BookBrowse Reviews Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Clock Dance

A Novel

by Anne Tyler

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler X
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jul 2018, 304 pages
    Apr 2019, 304 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book



Anne Tyler's latest involves a woman on a journey of self-discovery in the vibrantly-depicted city of Baltimore.

Of the 25 First Impression readers who submitted reviews for Anne Tyler's Clock Dance, 22 gave it a four- or five-star rating, for an impressive overall score of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

What it's about:
Like many of Tyler's novels, Clock Dance is a story about ordinary people living ordinary lives (Christine D). Readers first meet the main character, Willa Drake, when she is a child and follow her through the significant events in her life. It quickly becomes obvious that she has lived primarily as a people-pleaser (Mary M). It is not until she's in her 60s that Willa blossoms, as she unexpectedly finds herself embraced by a community that truly needs and values her (Julia E). This change allows her to take stock of her life and decide what road she really wants to take and which people she wants to include in the journey (Jean N). Tyler invites you into a world that you don't want to leave. You become comfortable right from the beginning and want to stick around to see what happens (Kathryn H).

The novel appeals to Tyler's fans:
It's Anne Tyler, of course it's good! I would say it's one of her best books, better than her last two (Kathryn H). She suffuses her quirky characters with so much compassion and understanding that they come alive on the page. Now in her 70s, Tyler still imparts lessons about the glory of living. As long as she keeps writing, I'll keep reading (Jill S). Those who love her work — and I do — will rejoice in all the familiar nuances of her oeuvre: eccentric yet familiar characters, baffling children, unhappy marriages, the Baltimore setting, and the dichotomy between confinement and freedom, security and self-worth (Jill S). Her finely-drawn characters are as comfortingly familiar as putting on that old cozy sweater (Meara C). If I was limited to reading only three authors for the rest of my time on Earth, Tyler would be one of them. She is a masterful storyteller (Darrell W).

Readers noted parallels to other works by the author:
In Clock Dance, familiar themes emerge: the woman who must leave home to find herself (Ladder of Years), the emotional distancing of children (Dinner in the Homesick Restaurant), and marital discord (The Amateur Marriage). Tyler also returns to the theme that family is what you make it (Kathryn H).

Many readers related to the main character:
Subtle, yet heartwarming and inspiring, the author manages to create a protagonist that represents the internal voice that so many women have. The voice that tells us to act politely under all circumstances and never create a fuss. The voice that asks, "Why haven't I done more with my life?" The voice that tinges all new experiences, large and small, with anxiety. What makes the book worthwhile is seeing how Willa grows from a timid young woman to an empowered individual (Anita P). Because I'm close in age to both Tyler and the main character, Willa resonated with me; I understood the character's development because I lived through the same time period and also saw how women were taught to behave during those decades (Kathryn H).

Clock Dance's secondary characters were also popular:
I found the novel's characters to be interesting, eccentric and charming (Susan C). They're realistic – flawed, but in most cases likable (Kathryn H).

Some couldn't connect to the story, while others found it stale:
I didn't feel enough of a connection with Willa to recognize that the discussed events were significant. Willa felt more like a woman that I might have met at a shower or birthday party and quickly forgotten (Babe H). The novel felt derivative; we've seen this story before in previous novels like The Accidental Tourist, Saint Maybe and others. Clock Dance is a decent read, beautifully written and sharply observed, but I kept waiting for something more transgressive to happen to break up the well-worn formula (Cynthia S).

Most readers loved the book and would recommend it:
Clock Dance was another winner in a very long list of Anne Tyler novels that I have read. She is right up there at the top of the list of my favorite authors (Jean N). Though Tyler is very much within her comfort zone with this novel, I still quite enjoyed following Willa across the country and through her interactions with a fun, zany cast of characters (Meara C). I truly loved this delightful tale and all of the quirky Baltimore residents (Susan C). A wonderful selection for a book club (Lori H).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2018, and has been updated for the May 2019 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Baltimore's Storied Past

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Butterfly Yellow
    Butterfly Yellow
    by Thanhha Lai, Daniel Suarez
    Voted 2019 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    As readers, many of us hope ...
  • Book Jacket: Olive, Again
    Olive, Again
    by Elizabeth Strout
    Voted 2019 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    It's been a big year for literary ...
  • Book Jacket: Solitary
    by Albert Woodfox
    Voted 2019 Best Debut Author Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    According to statistics from ...
  • Book Jacket: Becoming
    by Michelle Obama
    Voted 2019 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    BookBrowse hosted a Book Club ...

Book Club
Book Jacket
Evening in Paradise
by Lucia Berlin

"Berlin's new book is a marvel, filled with deeply touching stories about lives on the fringes."—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Mighty Justice
    by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe

    An inspiring life story that speaks urgently to our troubled times.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Butterfly Yellow


Winner of the BookBrowse Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and the overall highest rated book of the year!



The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.