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The Maytrees

July 21, 2008

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Annie Dillard. At one point, years ago, I’d picked up Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and flipping through it, it intimidated me. I’d even started An American Childhood by listening to it on CD and didn’t get far. I just wasn’t in the right mood. So, I’d heard the praises for Dillard’s second novel, The Maytrees, and decided to read it.

Reading Dillard is like reading poetry in prose form. The prose is as spare as the cover of the book. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could get through it. It was work. Beautiful work, but like a poem, you had to work at interpretation. You’ve got to stay with it. It opens to you slowly, like a gift. Dillard writes like no one I’ve ever read. Certainly, this book is the most creative novel I just might have ever read in my life, yet is without pretense. Creative not so much in plot but in style. In pure craftsmanship. I’m constantly astounded. A simple sentence leaves me breathless with wonder. Read this book if you care about words and writing. If you want to know how to capture a feeling in a completely new way, with no cliche in sight. Take this description of death, for example: “She lowered without fuss like a pilot light.” Whoa, what a visual image!

The theme of the novel is love. What is it? How do you keep it? Is romantic love all there is or is there more? The actual plot is about Toby and Lou Maytree who meet, fall in love, and have a son. Toby is a poet who works just enough to keep living so he can keep his mornings for his poetry. As described in the book’s jacket, “Dillard traces the Maytrees’ decades of loving and longing. They live cheaply among the nonconformist artists and writers that the bare tip of Cape Cod attracts. Lou takes up painting. When their son Petie appears, their innocent Bohemian friend Deary helps care for him. But years later it is Deary who causes the town to talk.” And that’s all I’ll say. No, actually, I’ll say the end is stunningly amazing.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2008 3:50 pm

    Wow! That’s quite a review. Definitely makes me want to go get the book…except I’m sure our public library won’t have it. argh :/ I’ve read Annie Dillard a long time ago, though I can’t remember what–but I think I liked her. So I’ll really have to pick this one up!

  2. July 21, 2008 8:47 pm

    Just remember, when I started it I didn’t think I’d get through it, but press on! It’s the kind of book you appreciate most when you’re done reading it, I think.

  3. Bethany permalink
    July 22, 2008 10:52 am

    You are making me want to read it too. The suspense.

  4. September 10, 2008 11:02 am

    Hey Danielle, I bought and read this book – it’s amazing. What was your take on the story itself? I’m curious to know. I’m still trying to process it. I love that it will bear reading again!


  1. Reads from 2008 « Dance by the Light

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