If Morning Ever Comes, Anne Tyler, Alfred A Knopf, 1964, 265 pp
This is Anne Tyler's first novel. The other day I read her latest, Clock Dance. Bookends! Don't be put off by the silly reprint cover shown here. I don't know what they were thinking.
Only 22 when it was published, she got a rave review by Orville Prescott in the New York Times. Not bad for a young woman's first novel in 1964. I learned that she studied writing with Reynolds Price in college. Maybe he gave her a hand in getting published.
It is quite a Southern story with echoes of Eudora Welty. Ben Joe Hawks is studying law at Columbia, though not because he necessarily wants to be a lawyer. He has a widowed mother and six sisters back in North Carolina and feels responsible for them.
Suddenly one morning he hops a train and heads home. He feels worried about all those females. When he arrives they are all like, "Oh, hi," but don't see any need to be worried over.
Of course you can't go home again, especially to the South in mid-twentieth century America. That was also the theme of that disappointing Robert Penn Warren novel Flood I read recently. Tyler's book has plenty of emotion but it is not melodramatic. Her trademark human but offbeat characters are already there.
Apparently she has said she wishes she could disown her early novels. If I could have a chat with her I would say don't. I have a soft spot for first novels. It is like looking at a baby and trying to picture how that individual will grow and become to be.
I had a soft spot for young Ben Joe Hawks. There is something endearing about a lone male in a house full of females. As he tries to knit his past into his present, I felt all those females should have worried about him!
(If Morning Ever Comes is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)