A Slipping-down Life by Anne Tyler: a review


If I were to make a list of my favorite contemporary writers, Anne Tyler would be near the top. I haven't read all of her books, but I have read most of them and there's not a single one that I haven't enjoyed, some more than others, of course. 

This one would probably rate near the middle of the pack. It is actually one of her earlier ones, having been published in 1970. It just recently came to my attention that I had not read it, so I immediately set out to rectify that oversight.

A Slipping-down Life gives us the story of young Evie Decker. Evie is a lonely, shy teenager living in a small North Carolina town with her widowed father, a teacher.

There is nothing special about Evie. She's slightly plump and not especially attractive. There's really nothing to make her stand out or make people notice her. She doesn't have any particular talents or interests. But then she hears a rock singer named Drumstrings Casey being interviewed on a local radio station and she becomes obsessed with him.

She expresses that obsession in a truly weird way; she carves his last name (his first name is too long) into her forehead during one of his shows. At last, people begin to notice her! And her antics bring her to the attention of Casey himself. Her actions generate some publicity for him and the two develop a strange kind of symbiotic relationship.

Drumstrings (his actual name is Bertram!) is utterly self-absorbed. He is only nineteen and so both of these two characters are adolescents who are still feeling their way in the world. 

Tyler conveys quite well what a confusing time this is for these young people and the fact that they do things without really considering the consequences of their actions. I suppose in that sense this could be considered a coming-of-age novel. Evie, at least, has made a kind of transition by the end of the novel and is in a different, maybe better, place emotionally.

This really is a quiet little gem of a book, only 196 pages. The plot and the characters are so wonderfully developed by the author that one feels almost as though one is visiting with friends. Friends whom one sincerely wishes well. Oh, to be able to write like that!


  1. It's been so long since I've read one of Anne Tyler's books! For awhile, I was working my way through all of them. Reading your review makes me want to start reading the rest of her books. Starting with this one. :D

  2. I have not heard of this old Tyler novel. She's written so many. I have only read about three or four of hers but Accidental Tourist is one of my favorites and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. I need to "rectify" by reading a few others.

  3. Wow, sounds like a very interesting novel. I can't say as I've heard of this novel by Anne Tyler. Honestly, I've only read one of her novels decades ago now... The Accidental Tourist.

    1. This is one of her very early ones, published before she got so famous.


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