Celestial Navigation by Anne Tyler

Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home is hosting The Anne Tyler re-read project 2021. I have really enjoyed the reading so far. If you are interested in earlier reviews please check my blog archive. For March we read Celestial Navigation and Searching for Caleb. 

"Thirty-eight-year-old Jeremy Pauling has never left home. He lives on the top floor of a Baltimore row house where he creates collages of little people snipped from wrapping paper. His elderly mother putters in the rooms below, until her death. And it is then that Jeremy is forced to take in Mary Tell and her child as boarders. Mary is unaware of how much courage it takes Jeremy to look her in the eye. For Jeremy, like one of his paper creations, is fragile and easily torn--especially when he's falling in love..."

Another wonderful story by Anne Tyler. We understand that Jeremy has some kind of mental syndrom and suffers from panic attacks. Tyler's characterisation of his mental state is written with such care, sympathy and above all, so well described that you can easily put yourself in Jeremy's shoes. You suffer with him, admire him when he manages to move outside his own fears and do things he has never done before.

Mary has a troubled life as well, but in another way. Always dependent on a man she makes the decision to be self sufficient. When Jeremy courts her she is not taking it seriously. Mostly, because she is still taken up by the two men who have made an imprint in her life. However, she sympathise with Jeremy and much to her own surprise she accepts his proposal.

They are both, in their own way happy in their relationship, until one day something happens that changes their life forever.

We also meet the other inhabitants of the boarding house where Jeremy lives. Some of them are part of the narration, which gives you an outside view on the relationship between Jeremy and Mary. Anne Tyler is a master of characterisation and does not let you down in this rather tragicomic tale. As usual Tyler's endings come rather abruptly and surprising. I found the ending very sad in this story. But what a story it is. One of her best reads so far in this project.  


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this, she was so good at getting inside Jeremy's head and the mixture of mental health issues and artistic work that was in there, wasn't she. I found it very sad but very absorbing, too.

    1. I think her ability to get inside Jeremy's head was amazing. One could really understand how he felt. She approached the mental health issues in a very caring and sensitive way, I found. I am so impressed how she manages to relate to the many different people that inhabit her universe. It is so well done. I appreciate her novels more and more as I read along.

  2. Anne Tyler is and has been one of my favorite writers for a long time. She chooses people that are a wee bit odd for her stories, and she writes about them with so much love that you love them, too, despite their flaws.


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