I believe The Tin Can Tree was the last of Anne Tyler’s novels that I had not read, until she releases a new one. My reading of her novels follows my usual arc for authors that I really like. Upon discovery, I devour all her books I can find in the local library. Then when moving I come across another batch. Finally by elimination nearly all are read. Equally though my desire flags, as I have read the best, or discover they are all a bit samey. So when I finally came across The Tin Can Tree it was not read straight away. I started it three times, more than a little bit put off by the plot about the death of a young child, bereavement is a regular theme of Tyler’s. It still ended up being the first book I have skipped work to finish this year.
A slight book, merely about the effect the death of the daughter of a family has on all around her. The precision about emotion is what Tyler excels at, especially emotion as displayed and not necessarily experienced. Quite often her characters get to the obvious solution by the hardest possible route. The Tin Can Tree is one of Tyler’s first novels, which you can tell by both its length (which I will write about soon, suffice to say it fits the pulp length) and the age of its key protagonist. As she has aged her leads have tended ‘ though not always – to get older too. Here it is the itinerant twenty-something cousin who is at the centre. Like A Slipping Down Life the youth of the lead does not always belie maturity.
The Tin Can Tree is surprisingly formulaic for Tyler, and the eccentricities of many of her families is less pronounced. It obviously worked for me, but whether that was just rediscovering more of a favourite author rather than discovering her best. As a completist, I am glad I have got it under my belt, but it is also interesting to see an author settling into their style.