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Summary and book reviews of A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler

A Patchwork Planet

by Anne Tyler

A Patchwork Planet
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  • First Published:
    May 1998, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 1999, 288 pages

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Book Summary

The story of a lovable loser who's trying to get his life in order.

In this, her fourteenth novel--and one of her most endearing--Anne Tyler tells the story of a lovable loser who's trying to get his life in order.

Barnaby Gaitlin has been in trouble ever since adolescence. He had this habit of breaking into other people's houses. It wasn't the big loot he was after, like his teenage cohorts. It was just that he liked to read other people's mail, pore over their family photo albums, and appropriate a few of their precious mementos.

But for eleven years now, he's been working steadily for Rent-a-Back, renting his back to old folks and shut-ins who can't move their own porch furniture or bring the Christmas tree down from the attic. At last, his life seems to be on an even keel.

Still, the Gaitlins (of "old" Baltimore) cannot forget the price they paid for buying off Barnaby's former victims. And his ex-wife would just as soon he didn't show up ever to visit their little girl, Opal. Even the nice, steady woman (his guardian angel?) who seems to have designs on him doesn't fully trust him, it develops, when the chips are down, and it looks as though his world may fall apart again.

There is no one like Anne Tyler, with her sharp, funny, tender perceptions about how human beings navigate on a puzzling planet, and she keeps us enthralled from start to finish in this delicious new novel.

From Chapter One

I am a man you can trust, is how my customers view me. Or at least, I'm guessing it is. Why else would they hand me their house keys before they leave for vacation? Why else would they depend on me to clear their attics for them, heave their air conditioners into their windows every spring, lug their excess furniture to their basements? "Mind your step, young fellow; that's Hepplewhite," Mrs. Rodney says, and then she goes into her kitchen to brew a pot of tea. I could get up to anything in that basement. I could unlock the outside door so as to slip back in overnight and rummage through all she owns--her Hepplewhite desk and her Japanese lacquer jewelry box and the six potbellied drawers of her dining-room buffet. Not that I would. But she doesn't know that. She just assumes it. She takes it for granted that I'm a good person.
Come to think of it, I am the one who doesn't take it for granted.

On the very last day of a bad old year, I was ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Book

In this, her fourteenth novel--and one of her most endearing--Anne Tyler tells the story of a lovable loser who's trying to get his life in order.

Barnaby Gaitlin has been in trouble ever since adolescence. He had this habit of breaking into other people's houses. It wasn't the big loot he was after, like his teenage cohorts. It was just that he liked to read other people's mail, pore over their family photo albums, and appropriate a few of their precious mementos.

But for eleven years now, he's been working steadily for Rent-a-Back, renting his back to old folks and shut-ins who can't move their own porch furniture or bring the Christmas tree down from the attic. At last, his life seems to...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
USA Today

Anne Tyler writes like an angel....One of those books that readers close at the end and recognize the truth they contain.

The Miami Herald

What resonates throughout the novel is Tyler's gentle wisdom. Her understanding of the complexities of human nature comes across beautifully, making this book a singular treat....She endows the tale of Barnaby's eventual self-discovery and redemption with charm, quiet humor and many bittersweet observations on the meaning of emotional connectedness with those around us, the aging process and the ability we all possess to start afresh.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Things are still quirky, sweet, funny, and wise in Tyler country, as once again, this beguiling novelist portrays seemingly placid characters on the verge of abrupt metamorphosis.

Kirkus Reviews

Absolutely wonderful: Tyler's many admirers are sure to number this among her very best work.

Reader Reviews
susan

A Patchwork Planet
Anne Tyler is a great writer, no doubt. Her book, A Patchwork Planet is a great read but I found the ending somewhat unsatisfactory. At the beginning he admired Sophia's "definiteness" and routines and were an influence on his own journey. I ...   Read More

Kate

I am teaching this novel to over 100 juniors in a suburban high school. It has opened their eyes to a world of characters they can relate to and learn from. Barnaby is everyone's older brother (or themselves) who just can't seem to get it right. His ...   Read More

her

ewww!
This book is AWFUL!!! DO NOT READ IT!!!!!!! there is NO plot and the characters are GROSS!!!!!!

Anonymous
Pam Swires
Easy summer-time read. The characters are very believable...Barnaby's clients could be your parent or grandparent. You walk along with Barnaby Gaitlin watching him evolve from a delinquent teen to a man who is comfortable with the person he...   Read More

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