I just finished "Saint Maybe" by Anne Tyler. I am not sure, at all, how to review this book. I enjoyed it and I would recommend it but I am not sure how to describe my feelings about it.
The story begins with the Bedloe family -- a real Beaver Cleaver sort of group. They seem to have it all together with the parents, Claudia, Danny and Ian. Slowly but surely the perfection begins to unravel. Grandma is plagued with arthritis which is progressive. Grandpa progresses from a rather opinionated man to a weak man. Claudia is always just on the sidelines -- married with children and living away. Danny, who is the focus in the beginning, finds love with the beautiful Lucy who comes complete with a shady past, very little background history and two children, Thomas and Agatha -- and a bun it the oven. Is the bun Danny's? We never really know.
As the story progresses, Thomas and Agatha become central to Ian as Ian becomes their primary babysitter and consequently more and more involved in their lives. More than once Lucy is late getting home which squelches Ian's plan with HIS lady love, Cicely. Lucy's activities seems shady to Ian and he finally decides that she cheating on Danny. After one evening of Lucy not coming home in time for Ian to meet Cicely, Danny comes home from a party rather drunk and Ian demands that he drive him home in spite of his altered state of being. During this drive home, Ian, angry because of his ruined evening, tells Danny that Lucy is cheating on him. Shortly after this exchange there is an accident killing Danny. Everyone thinks it was an accident but Ian thinks it was suicide and he feels responsible. Lucy's death shortly thereafter causes Ian to believe that he was instrumental in both of their passings which just multiplies the guilt.
One particularly low evening Ian stumbles upon the Church of the Second Chance. It is a non-mainstream church being conducted from a storefront -- but Ian hears the singing and is drawn in. Here he finds Brother Emmitt who he confesses to and confides in. Brother Emmett tells Ian that the way to make things right are to devote himself to the children that he feels responsible for making orphans. That appealed to Ian's sensibilities and for the next 20 years he devotes himself to raising the children with his parents and becoming a master carpenter. After his mother's passing and the last child, Daphne's, departure from the home, Ian finds his own life in the form of Rita -- a friend of Daphne and the owner/operator of "Clutter Counselor" -- a company who declutters houses. She was hired by Agatha, now a physician living in California with her husband, to do something about the hoarding conditions that have come to be the norm in the Bedloe household.
The book ends on an upbeat note with everybody having found their way and happy but for a bit it was a little depressing. Not depressing enough to stop reading it but you could definitely feel Grandma going downhill health wise, you could feel Grandpa aging, you could feel -- and hear in their voices -- the children growing up -- but at the end it was all ok -- they had made full circle and it proved to be a very satisfying read.