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A Patchwork Planet

Best Seller
A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler
Paperback $16.00
Feb 22, 1999 | ISBN 9780449003985

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  • Feb 22, 1999 | ISBN 9780449003985

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  • Jan 13, 2010 | ISBN 9780307569912

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Product Details


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


“A perfect gem…Tyler’s books get wiser, funnier and richer as they go.”
The Seattle Times

“So wonderfully readable that one swallows it in a single gulp…What makes this novel so irresistible is the main character and narrator Barnaby Gaitlin, a 30-year-old misfit, a renegade who is actually a kind-hearted man struggling to find his place in the world.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“If we believe that serious novels are about the search for a true home, then A Patchwork Planet is a novel that repays our always delighted attention.”
–Carol Shields, The New York Times Book Review

“Possesses a tenderness reminscent of Breathing Lessons…[Tyler] is beloved not just for her three-dimensional Baltimore or her quirkily intimate characters, but also for the small, heroic struggles they encounter in the course of a day.”
The Boston Sunday Globe

“Vintage Tyler…A Patchwork Planet tells the heart-tugging story of the sins of the boy being visited on the man.”
Chicago Tribune

“Fresh and engaging.”

“Filled with insight and compassion, Anne Tyler’s 14th novel chronicles a year in the life of a 30-year-old ‘loser’ named Barnaby Gaitlin….Tyler has crafted a remarkably lovable character, a young man as endearing as Macon Leary, the memorable protagonist of her 1985 bestseller, The Accidental Tourist.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“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.”
The Miami Herald

“This could only be Tyler territory, where losers are treated with a tenderness that encourages them to consider winning in the world. In her 14th novel, the persuasive storyteller with the beautiful, unforced style works her familiar ground–family, connection, the quirks of humans–with ease.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A Patchwork Planet is filled with descriptions that summarize an entire way of life in a single image….[Tyler’s] genius lies in making quotidian events extraordinarily poignant.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“In an uncertain world, it’s reassuring to know for an absolute fact that Anne Tyler’s next novel (and the one after that and the one after that) will cause me to shiver at truths that I recognize but have never heard voiced, pinch me sharply with its poignancy and catch me off guard with funny moments that make me laugh so hard I have to put the book down until I get a grip on myself. Tyler’s 14th novel, A Patchwork Planet, does all that.”
San Diego Union Tribune

Tyler’s many admirers are sure to number this among her very best work….[Her] appealing warmth and flair for eccentric comedy are abundantly displayed in her superb 14th novel.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“It is Tyler’s great talent to involve us thoroughly with her characters. With a keen eye for detail and the sense of humanity that she displayed in her 1985 novel The Accidental Tourist, Tyler brilliantly portrays their foibles, their disappointments and their hopes. Barnaby Gaitlin is one of her most sympathetic creations.”

A Patchwork Planet, Pulitzer Prize-winning Anne Tyler’s 14th novel, finds the black-sheep son of an old Baltimore family attempting to get his life on track….Recalls Tyler’s early works, such as Celestial Navigation and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, which…are peopled by genuine eccentrics whose grip on the world is charmingly, but definitely, precarious…Anne Tyler lovingly captures that world.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Writing with humor and pathos worthy of her previous works, Tyler continues to make distinctive observations about the quirks and peculiarities of domestic life and the struggle of some lost souls to be part of a world where everyone else seems focused on the beaten path.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I adore Anne Tyler…It’s hard to imagine any other writer…whom you can read with such unalloyed pleasure.”
San Jose Mercury News

“This is a wonderful novel–don’t miss it!…A Patchwork Planet is like a crazy quilt with familiar fabrics which, when assembled, becomes unique.”
Chattanooga Press

“This is a book you can trust…Tyler understands this modest world, both its frustrations and its rewards. With each funny, painful novel, she adds another square to her tapestry of redemption.”
The Christian Science Monitor

“Always entertaining…Anne Tyler once again creates characters that are believable, funny and true….In Barnaby Gaitlin, Tyler has created a character who looks into the mirror of self-revelation and finds not only flaws but redeeming qualities as well.”
Hartford Courant

“A sophisticated, poignant and carefully crafted chart of the vicissitudes of trust.”
Time Out New York

“I don’t know whether anyone has called Tyler a fin-de-siècle Jane Austen. I guess I’ll do it here. Like Austen’s, Tyler’s books are full of life’s little lessons, closely observed and compassionately recounted….A Patchwork Planet is filled with pleasure and pain. That the pleasure triumphs is [Tyler’s] final kindness to us, her readers.”
Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

“The novel is wise and funny….Not only a colorful snapshot of youth but a compassionate picture of old age…With exquisite description and flawless dialogue, Tyler dignifies the lives of miraculously ordinary characters.”
New York Daily News

“Alternately comedic and tragic…With A Patchwork Planet, Tyler has once again served up literary comfort food for the soul.”

Author Q&A

Q: Your protagonist in this novel, Barnaby Gaitlin, has been described as an average, ordinary man. Is this how you would describe him?

AT:I think Barnaby is average and ordinary only to the extent that most people are average and ordinary–that is, not very, if you look carefully enough.

Q: Barnaby is, among other things, a man struggling to cast off the weight of his past. How successful is he, and indeed any of us, in doing so?

AT: I do believe that Barnaby is at least largely successful in getting out from under the weight of his past–that’s where the plot derives its movement.

Q: At the close of this novel, we are left wondering just exactly who is Barnaby’s angel. How would you answer this question?

AT: Barnaby has not just one but many angels–the network of people he lives among who see him for the good man he is and wish him well and do what they can to ease his life.

Q: You delightfully skewer class pretensions in this novel, most notably in the form of Barnaby’s mother, Margot, and explore the cost and meaning of class mobility in America. Why is this such a central theme in your work?

AT: I’ve always enjoyed studying the small clues that indicate a particular class level. And I am interested in the fact that class is very much a factor in America, even though it’s not supposed to be.

Q: You have been credited by reviewer James Bowman in the Wall Street Journal with creating fictional businesses with great potential, Rent-a-Back being the most recent and best example. What was the inspiration for Rent-a-Back?

AT: Rent-a-Back’s inspiration was pure wishful thinking. I would love to have such a service available to me.

Q: Many reviewers have commented upon your powerful, realistic, and humane portrayal of elderly characters in this novel as well as the relative lack of sustained exploration of old age in contemporary American fiction. Do you agree with this assessment of the state of the field?

AT:There are a number of good novels about old people–I don’t see a lack.

Q: Why did you choose to create such a wide array of elderly characters and make the often painful process of aging a central focus of this novel?

AT: Time, in general, has always been a central obsession of mine–what it does to people, how it can constitute a plot all on its own. So naturally, I am interested in old age.

Q: If you had to choose one of the family units in this novel as your own, which would you choose and why?

AT: For my own family, I would always choose the makeshift, surrogate family formed by various characters unrelated by blood.

Q: Barnaby is a character who lives very much in his own head. Was it difficult to bring this loner to such vivid life on the page?

AT: I had trouble at first getting Barnaby to "open up" to me–he was as thorny and difficult with me as he was with his family, and we had a sort of sparring, tussling relationship until I grew more familiar with him.

Q: Which character(s) presented the greatest challenge to you as a writer?

AT: Sophia was a challenge, because I had less sympathy with her than with the other characters, and therefore I had more trouble presenting her fairly.

Q: How did you come to choose writing as your life’s work, and what sustains you in this often solitary vocation?

AT: I didn’t really choose to write; I more or less fell into it. It’s true that it’s a solitary occupation, but you would be surprised at how much companionship a group of imaginary characters can offer once you get to know them.

Q: How does the writing process work for you? Has it changed over the years?

AT: I never think about the actual process of writing. I suppose I have a superstition about examining it too closely.

Q: What advice would you give struggling writers trying to get published?

AT: I would advise any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no one else will ever read them–without a thought about publication–and only in the last draft to consider how the work will look from the outside.

Q: How do your own experiences impact (or not) upon your work in terms of subject matter and themes and so forth?

AT: None of my own experiences ever finds its way into my work. However, the stages of my life–motherhood, middle age, etc.–often influence my subject matter.

Q: What themes do you find yourself consistently addressing in your work?

AT: I don’t think of my work in terms of themes. I’m just trying to tell a story.

Q: Because you are an author with a substantial body of work, reviewers and readers alike cannot resist choosing their favorite book. Do you have a favorite among your own works?

AT: My favorite of my books is Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, becomes it comes closest to the concept I had when I started writing it.

Q: As a writer who is frequently cited as an important influence on your peers, what writers andor works have most influenced you?

AT: A major influence on my writing was reading Eudora Welty’s short stories at age fourteen. It wasn’t till then that I realized that the kind of people I saw all around me could be fit subjects for literature.

Q: What books would you recommend reading groups add to their lists?

AT: Books that cause fiercely passionate arguments, pro and con, seem to me the best candidates for reading groups. For instance, I would recommend Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children. No one is ever neutral about that book.

Q: What would you most like your readers to get out of this novel?

AT: My fondest hope for any of my novels is that readers will feel, after finishing it, that for awhile they have actually stepped inside another person’s life and come to feel related to that person.

Q: What is next for you? Are you working on a new project?

AT: I am in the very beginning stages of a novel whose central character is sixty-five years old.

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