Have you ever been to a renaissance faire? I spent quite a few summers growing up going to the local faire with my family. I was fascinated that there were people who made this their life for the whole summer, but had other lives outside of the faire. Faires serve as ways to experience the past, but with the knowledge that you can go back to your regular present life!
Well Met by Jen DeLuca takes the concept of past vs. present and runs with it. Willow Creek, Maryland is a small town where everyone knows everyone else. Trying to keep anything quiet can be pretty difficult, but there are charms to living in such a small area. Emily is having a hard time seeing the positives, but she’s working on it. Emily moved her entire life to Willow Creek to help her sister recover from a bad accident. Being dropped into this new life, she works hard to alleviate any stress on her sister by making lists to navigate her new life. Instead of working two jobs, Emily spends her days running her sister to appointments and chauffeuring her niece around.
Driving her niece to the high school one day, Emily soon finds herself volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire so that her niece can participate. Emily bumps into Simon, an irritating schoolteacher who is in charge of the volunteers. While they don’t initially get along, Emily is forced to keep working with Simon since the faire is a huge part of his family. The faire is very important to Simon and Emily’s joking approach to the whole experience, plus her insistence that some aspects of faire should change, only further work to irk and anger Simon.
Once faire begins however, Simon slips into a new persona. Gone is the stuffy English teacher and in his place lives a completely new, and likeable, person. This new Simon flirts openly with Emily as she works at the tavern in her revealing wench outfit. The drastic difference between the two confuses Emily. Is the attraction she’s feeling towards Simon at the faire real? Or is it just part of their characters, the part of faire that Simon is always telling them that they need to portray?
Emily is more confused than ever as she works to figure out what she is going to do after the summer is over and her sister has recovered from her accident. She was only supposed to stay in Willow Creek until her sister recovered, but the more time she spends in the community, and the more she gets to know Simon, the more Emily is thinking that she might want to make a permanent home in Willow Creek. But should she? What about Simon? Where will she stay? Will everyone in Willow Creek grow to accept her?
When Anne Tyler’s previous book A Spool of Blue Thread was released in 2015, multiple patrons, friends, and other librarians told me I needed to read it. Sadly, I never got around to doing so since I was consumed in so many other great books at the time and it slipped from my mind. When her latest, Clock Dance, started popping up on lists months ago, I knew I needed to read it based on the popularity of her previous novels. For once, I was ahead of the game!
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler is the story of one woman’s life journey from an 11-year-old schoolgirl forced to step into her mother’s shoes in 1967 to a 61-year-old woman hoping for grandchildren in 2017. Tyler presents many characters throughout this novel. She does a wonderful job giving each vibrant backstories and rich present lives. I found myself thoroughly invested in each character’s life as they work to survive day to day.
When Willa Drake looks back on her life, she can count on one hand the moments that define her. In 1967, Willa and her younger sister Elaine come home from school to discover that their mother has disappeared. Again. Willa is forced to become a mother figure to her sister and waits hoping her mother will come home soon. In 1977, Willa is away at college trying to decide if she wants to marry her current boyfriend. During a trip home to see her family with said boyfriend in tow, Willa sees that she needs to form an identity separate from that of her parents. In 1997, Willa lives across the country with her husband and two children. Enjoying a life full of various activities, Willa’s world is thrown upside down when her husband dies. Only 41 years old, Willa struggles to put her life back together while taking care of her boys.
In 2017, Willa is 61 years old yearning for her sons to give her grandchildren. Given how little the two talk to her and from what she knows about their scant love lives, Willa doesn’t think she’ll ever be a grandmother. One day, Willa receives a phone call out of the blue from a stranger saying she needs help. Can Willa fly out to Baltimore and be her savior? Dropping everything, Willa and her second husband jump on a plane and head to Baltimore. Once there, Willa steps in to care for a young woman she’s never met, her nine-year-old daughter, and a dog named Airplane. Willa hardly ever makes impulsive decisions, but when this spur of the moment trip ends up introducing her and her husband to places, people, and experiences she’s unfamiliar with, Willa discovers that change can be a good thing. While her husband is anxious to get back to their familiar, Willa finds comfort in these complete strangers who have accepted her as one of their own.
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