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Re-reading Anne Tyler

May 18, 2011

Having completed two sermons in our new series, it occurs to me that an extraordinarily fruitful way of reading Anne Tyler’s novel Breathing Lessons, which I discussed in my first sermon, would be in light of the distinction made between ‘parent’ and ‘grandparent’ stories in the second sermon. Ira and Maggie have suffered in marriage because they brought to their union parental expectations, rather than grandparently truths. Maggie frequently wonders about other marriages, whether they are as happy or unhappy as she imagines, whether they are a easy and natural as they seem, whether other couples struggle to communicate, understand, or simply get along the way she and Ira do. She often says that she wishes someone had told her the truth about marriage – that it requires work like any other relationship.

And yet all this does not affect in the least Maggie’s own expectations for the relationship between her son Jessie and his girlfriend (then wife, then ex-wife) Fiona.  Her ‘meddling’ in their relationship can be seen as trying to impose the ‘parental’ script on them when it so clearly does not fit. Some ‘grandparently’ grace would be welcome. 

Does the modicum of ‘breathing space’ and ‘relational grace’ that Maggie and Ira experience by the end of the book come from their spending this day with their grandchild Leroy?  It’s an intriguing thought.

Let me know what you think?

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