Anything by Anne Tyler is irresistible reading. One gets caught up in her elegant phrasing, so unusual with today's faster-paced style. Her heroes live on the edge of main stream America, caught up in daily struggles familiar to us all--often chaotic and character revealing. This novel is about 30-year-old misfit Barnaby Gaitlin, "a renegade who is actually a kind-hearted man struggling to find his place in the world."
There are times you may say to yourself "WHY am I reading this book?", but stick with it, it's excellent. Just getting to know this extraordinary, yet ordinary guy...from a rich, yet poor family, doing something so sweet he doesn't even realize it... but it all works out and then some.
The story of a lovable loser who's trying to get his life in order. I don't identify enough with lovable losers - especially men - and especially those who used to break into houses - to really feel pulled into this story. But I love Anne Tyler's writing and if anyone could make me care about a guy with a history like that, it would be her. And so I enjoyed it, and pulled for the guy to make it to a better place...
Barnaby Gaitlin is just trying to get his life in order. But he has a habit of breaking into other people's houses so he can read their mail and gather one or two momentos. Anne Tyler has a knack for creating memorable,loveable, yet flawed characters and this book is no exception. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Barnaby Gaitlin is one of Anne Tyler's most promising unpromising characters. At 30, he has yet to graduate from college, is already divorced, and is used to defeat. His mother thrives on reminding him of his adolescent delinquency and debt to his family, and even his daughter is fed up with his fecklessness. Still, attuned as he is to "the normal quota for misfortune," Barney is one of the star employees of Baltimore's Rent-a-Back, Inc., which pays him an hourly wage to help old people (and one young agoraphobe) run errands and sort out their basements and attics. Anne Tyler makes you admire most of these mothball eccentrics (though they're far from idealized) and hope that they can stave off nursing homes and death. There is, for example, "the unstoppable little black grandma whose children phoned us on an emergency basis whenever she threatened to overdo." And then there's Barnaby's new girlfriend's aunt, who will eventually accuse him of theft--"Over her forearm she carried a Yorkshire terrier, neatly folded like a waiter's napkin. 'This is my doorbell,' she said, thrusting him toward me. 'I'd never have known you were out here if not for Tatters.'" These people are wonderful creations, but their lives are more brittle than cuddly, Barnaby knows better than to think of them as friends, because they'll only die on him. Yet his job offers at least glimpses of roots and affection. Helping an old lady set up her Christmas tree (on New Year's Eve!) gives him the chance to hang a singular ornament--a snowflake "pancake-sized, slightly crumpled, snipped from gift wrap so old that the Santas were smoking cigarettes." And Barnaby himself is sharp and impatient at painful--and painfully funny--family dinners, apparently unable to keep his finger off the auto-self-destruct button every time his life improves. As much as his superb creator, he is a poet of disappointment, resignation, and minute transformation. --Kerry Fried--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
It was an interesting story, kept my attention until the end, but very unsatisfying and often irritating.
I had trouble liking the protagonist all the way through. There were times I could feel sympathetic toward him, and other times when I was angry with him. And the ending was really loose. Do Barnaby and Sophia work out their differences? Do Barnaby and his mother finally get along?
I've always liked Anne Tyler's style. She makes the mundane notable and brings her characters to life. This story wasn't earth shattering or life changing, but interesting enough to keep me wanting to keep going. I remember that several times while reading it I thought to myself "I have to remember this phrase/idea/statement...this is rather profound!" A good read all in all.
Wonderful characters and their relationships. Family conflicts and remaking meaningful connections, self-discovery and redemptions are the strengths of Anne Tyler that make me return again and again to enjoy her novels.
Enjoyable, unpredictable flowing story of finding the freedom to be true to one's self despite family pressures to fit into their preconceived notions. A playful, responsible 30-year-old man finds his way in this story.
I've had this book a long time, I'm a fan of Anne Tyler and her silly word play, but I think I put off reading this as I don't like the title. The story is cute, Barnaby Gaitlin is the black sheep of his well to do family, he was a juvenile delinquent and is now underachieving in his mid-30s (living in somebody's basement and providing manual labor for a small operation called Rent A Back).
The phrase patchwork planet refers to an ugly quilt design created by a favorite client, it only comes up once and briefly and I don't really get why it's the title of the book. Maybe Barnaby's mind operates in a somewhat patchwork-y fashion? I love his snarky "Old Baltimore" family, and identify with his older, managerial girlfriend Sophia.
Anything by Anne Tyler is a treat. The hero of this novel is a young adult who, according to his parents and ex-wife has no goals and aspirations, but somehow manages to touch the lives of the elderly people who are his clients. One of my favorite fictional characters.
Barnaby Gaitlin is a loser - a charming, lovable loser, perhaps - but a loser nonetheless. As a teenager, he had a bad habit of breaking into other people's houses. Although, it was never about stealing like it was for his teenage cohorts; Barnaby just liked to read other people's mail, pore over their family photo albums, and appropriate a few of their precious mementos. He had been in trouble ever since adolescence, but now, at just short of thirty years old, he was attempting to get his life in order.
For eleven years, he's been working steadily for Rent-a-Back, renting his back to old folks and shut-ins who need help moving their furniture or bringing Christmas trees down from the attic. At long 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 prefer that he never showed up to visit their little girl, Opal. Overall, Barnaby is still seen by everyone as the black sheep of a philanthropic family - who, instead of attending an Ivy League college and working for his family's charitable foundation - got sent to a reform school for wealthy boys as a teenager, and now works as a manual laborer. A distinct disappointment for the affluent and well-connected Gaitlin family of Baltimore.
Barnaby has spent the majority of his adult life trying to live up to his family's high ideals, failing miserably to fully atone for his teenage sins in their estimation. Eventually, a woman enters Barnaby's life, a woman he views as his guardian angel. Her name is Sophia, and even though she seems to have designs on him, she still doesn't entirely trust him. However, Sophia will ultimately change Barnaby's life in ways no one, least of all Barnaby himself, could ever imagine.
I truly appreciated reading this book. I will admit, the story was sort of humdrum with not much going on in the plot; but in my opinion, the book was certainly well-written and charming. I was thoroughly entertained and give this book an A!