Books: Wilderness Course

EARTHLY POSSESSIONS by ANNE TYLER 200 pages. Knopf $7.95.

At 34, Anne Tyler can no longer be called a prodigy; she remains prodigious. Her work is marked by the traditions of the South—but not those of the Southern novel. Her seven books contain none of the classic grotesques or theological underpinnings. Tyler prefers trademarks of her own: a firm sense of region and family and a sure and witty touch with her characters. Her books are advocacies of affirmation; in Earthly Possessions she again demonstrates that profound gentleness and beauty can reside in the plainest of people.

Charlotte Emory is a passive...

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