Anne Tyler has created a sensitive, troubled male character named Barnaby Gaitlin. Barnaby has been through a marriage and has one daughter and has been labeled a loser by his family partly because for the past eleven years he has worked at the same minimum wage job for Rent-a-Back and partly for the trouble he go into as a teen. Rent-a-Back is the company that provides services to the elderly by helping them do household things such as moving furniture and assembling Christmas trees.
Barnaby's life suddenly changes when he meets a new love, not really by accident, at the train station. As we get to know Barnaby better we come to see what a sensitive, although quirky, and sometimes immature young man he is. He seems to be clearly without any aspirations, even when it comes to visitation rights with his daughter. We begin to understand some of the frustrations he has with his family that caused him to get into trouble in his teenage years but on the other hand get exasperated with him because he seems to just float along.
Tyler has made a character you want to both hug and smack. I appreciate Barnaby's sensitivity and lack of materialism . . . but I also became frustrated because I felt Tyler never fully divulges why Barnaby did some of the extreme things he did as a teen. Yes he was acting out, but once particular incident causes him to come across as a trifle disturbed. Maybe that's what Tyler wants us to know--Barnaby, the lovable black sheep is different. As with many black sheep, he doesn't quite fit in. In the end, he proves to be a man of integrity in some ways but not so much so in others and that disappointed me. But that's not to say the Tyler hasn't done a good job. I am not going to reveal to you what the ending is. Let's just say that Tyler keeps it real. Barnaby is true to himself--always the maverick.
I will give this 4 1/2 stars out of five--mainly because I would have liked to have seen a little bit happier ending.