Anne Tyler: Biography & Books

Instructor: Laura Thompson

Laura tutors English and writing and has a master's degree in management.

Welcome to the world of Anne Tyler! Learn about her charming and hypnotic brand and why her quiet, unassuming style is something too special to miss. Read about the various plots of her books, and choose which Anne Tyler novel will be your first.

Anne Tyler: Life and Writing

Anne Tyler

The casual reader often seeks entertainment that is every bit as enthralling as movies or television. A book can take us to Paris, allow us to be swept away by romance, or captivated by adventure or intrigue. Anne Tyler writes of the human condition and has the unique ability to mesmerize readers with tales of everyday life. The reader of Anne Tyler will not find characters who hit the lottery, live in foreign countries, or commit crime. However, he or she will find real human emotion.

The Anne Tyler Brand

Anne Tyler

Tyler's style, after twenty novels, has become her brand. Most of her protagonists are men, and Tyler is fond of saying that this is because she lived with a family of good men and so she feels comfortable writing from that point of view. Her characters aren't typically suave, masterful, or poised and are often even referred to by critics as lacking in backbone. Despite, this harsh judgment, Anne Tyler's departure from the typically hyper-masculine role is refreshing and offers a perception that her male characters are average people with average problems and emotions.

The plots in Tyler's books tend to be similar, and most are set in Baltimore where she has lived for the last forty-eight years. She often describes her female roles in ways that leave the reader wondering why a particular character is even appealing, yet the reader is still drawn to her. The stories often exude a slightly melancholy, bittersweet tone that somehow perversely manages to leave the reader feeling utterly satisfied by the last page.


Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis in 1941. Her father, Lloyd Parry, was an industrial chemist, and her mother, Phyllis Mahon Tyler, was a social worker. The family left Minneapolis for a Quaker community in North Carolina in order to withdraw from society during World War II. Anne was the oldest of four with three younger brothers. She remembers a casual lifestyle that didn't include formal education or even wearing shoes in her younger years. When Anne was eleven, the family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and Anne attended a larger, public school for the first time.

In 1961, at age nineteen, Tyler graduated from Duke University after studying writing with author Reynolds Price. Rather than transition directly into full-time writing, she instead pursued Russian studies at Columbia University. Immediately following, she worked at Duke University as a Russian bibliographer, but as library work became dreary, Tyler began to write again in the evening hours. Tyler met her husband of thirty-four years, Dr.Taghi Modarressi, noted author and child psychiatrist, in Raleigh when she was twenty-one. The author's first novel, If Morning Ever Comes was published when she was twenty-three. The couple moved to Baltimore in 1967 when Modarressi was hired for a position at University of Maryland. She has lived there ever since. Dr.Modarressi died of lymphoma in 1997, and the author never remarried. The couple had two daughters. She is a member of the distinguished Academy of Arts and Letters.

Anne Tyler's tenth novel, The Accidental Tourist was produced as a movie with Geena Davis and William Hurt in 1988. Davis won an Oscar in 1989 for her performance as best supporting actress in this film. The Accidental Tourist and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant were both nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Tyler's following novel, Breathing Lessons, won this prestigious award in 1989.


Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

The Tull family consists of three grown children and one ailing mother. In the novel, the family looks back on an imperfect family history. While all have grown up under the same roof, each sibling has been affected in different and unique ways by the father who abandoned them. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant shares their stories and a plan to reunite at the Homesick Restaurant.

The Accidental Tourist

Like all of Anne Tyler's books, there is an underlying sadness in this novel, and not every character reacts very well to events as the story unfolds. How the main character, Macon, copes with what happens during the course of his journey and the emotions he experiences along the way is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.

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