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Celestial Navigation

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  3,036 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
Jeremy is a child-like, painfully shy batchelor who has never left home. He lives on the third floor of his mother's boarding house and spends his days cutting up coloured paper to make mosaic sculptures - until the day his mother dies and the beautiful Mary Tell arrives to turn his world upside down.

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amateur Marriage and Diggin
Published February 1st 1996 by Vintage (first published 1974)
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Feb 11, 2013 Mariel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hate in a puddle
Recommended to Mariel by: Sean
Sad people are the only real ones. They can tell you the truth about things; they have always known that there is no one you can depend upon forever and no change in your life, however great, that can keep you from being in the end what you were in the beginning: lost and lonely, sitting on an oilcloth watching the rest of the world do the butterfly stroke.

There's a something that you can have because you gave it to someone, a kind of grace or willing warmth. Something of you to light on someone
Liza Perrat
Nov 01, 2015 Liza Perrat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favourite Anne Tyler. I couldn't sympathise with the main character, Jeremy. Found this well-written, with great characterization, as all her novels, but a depressing read.
Derek Emerson
Apr 30, 2010 Derek Emerson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tyler's most recognizable feature is her unique characters. To say many of her characters are off center is being polite. Many are just plain strange, but almost always in an appealing way. Tyler loves people, especially those who choose to approach life with their own unique view despite what society tells them. She is not naive about people, and the eternally unhappy person usually makes an appearance, but it is the strange and wonderful which capture her attention.

Celestial Navigation is Tyle
Feb 18, 2016 Alisea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
L'amore - paziente o meno - in questo libro non esiste (non a caso il titolo originale è "Celestial navigation").
L'autrice ci catapulta in una storia strana, a volte priva di logica, con personaggi al limite, dei quali è perfino difficile ricavarne l'aspetto fisico se non per cenni lasciati cadere qua e là. Sono delineati perfettamente però le loro personalità, le loro fragilità al punto che si riesce ad immedesimarsi in ognuno di loro. Tanti personaggi (anche quelli secondari) incap
Gila Gila
Jan 03, 2011 Gila Gila rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably my favorite Tyler novel, for its strangeness, and it's sadness, and it's refusal to compromise on either. A canny look at a mentally ill artist who navigates his claustrophobic world as if wearing heavy boots several too sizes too large on the slickest, thinnest ice. And his house! I recall it as if I had been there, in a dream
Dec 01, 2011 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was brilliant. Tyler's voices are always so beautifully realized. Every character has such a unique point of view and narration. I especially loved the voice of the woman who opened the novel; I could read a whole book about her.

Yes, it was an excellent book, but...

But it left me gazing at one of the unopened bottles of wine when I finished it.

And I finished it before noon.

Draw your own conclusions.
Not my favorite Anne Tyler. In fact I would place it as low as it can go, on par with "Patchwork Planet" and "Ladder of Years." There really is no such thing as a bad Anne Tyler novel, but some merely hint at her potential. Such is the case with "Celestial Navigation." It has some of her hallmarks -- Baltimore location, quirky and methodical characters, characters who are stuck in their ways but have the potential to break out into something richer. Such is the case for Jeremy Pauling. Although ...more
Feb 06, 2014 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost unbearably sad, a story about two people who need each other and love each other but can't find their way. They misinterpret and misread the cues, both afraid or incapable of speaking their true feelings. A man's desire to be needed, a woman's determination to not be dependent, to not burden him with her need. We can all learn from this wise and truthful tale about our most primitive selves and the misguided way we screw up our lives. I felt myself wanting to hold on to my nearest and dea ...more
Apr 20, 2015 Gwen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was worth reading, we all should know what it is like to be live life as a dysfunctional person or a person with serious life challenges. I read it to try and understand and to be more compassionate. Reading it did not help me much in how to help those with these challenges. Perhaps the closest it came was near the end when Jeremy is waiting for a bus with four other people. It explains why, as an aging senior, so many people one passes, look through you, past you, or over you, it is fear of ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Sterlingcindysu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my top 10 for 2015.

It has been a long time since I've read Tyler. This was published in 1974 but it has the feel of conveying the 1950s. (really, in terms of technology, there wasn't much new between 1950 and 1985. There was tv and phones.)

The main character, Jeremy, has a severe case of Asperger's' (or autism) with a healthy side dose of agoraphobia. He is lucky enough to have a mother that leaves him a boarding house when he dies so he doesn't have to work a real job and can do his "pro
Ross Fattori
The protagonist of Celestial Navigation is Jeremy Pauling, a reclusive and misunderstood artist who rarely ventures outside of his studio. With a less talented writer, Jeremy's character might have remained a cliché, a starving artist who sacrifices friends and family for the higher calling of his art. But Tyler brings a level of nuance and understanding to this flawed individual and presents him as a multi-dimensional human being.

Admittedly, Jeremy is not a likeable character (he's selfish, ind
Jun 04, 2011 Jonette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Anne Tyler's writing style and quirky stories and thought I had read all of her novels but I recently found this one at the friends of the library book sale. Tyler's characters are all dysfunctional in their own way. In this story the main character is Jeremy Pauling, a reclusive artist with agoraphobia who lives in the same house he grew up in with a revolving crew of boarders. He is living his nonconventional life of painting, art students and marketing contest entries when Mary Tell an ...more
Jill Watterson
Dec 14, 2014 Jill Watterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"His life, he thought, was eye-shaped--the tight pinched corners of childhood widening in middle age to encompass Mary and the children, narrowing back now to this single lonely room." I thought the book was very well written but was disappointed in the ending, so it lost a star. A story of the journey (celestial navigation) of an agoraphobic artistic savant, liberated from his solitary life for a time. Took me 4 months to read it because of work and other commitments/distractions. Yet I had to ...more
May 31, 2015 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-novels
Celestial Navigation
Anne Tyler (Author)
Anne Tyler's career has seen the talented, prolific writer tell stories about small details in bigger narratives, and Celestial Navigation looks at the small details that form the vast majority of everyday living. It looks at the life and career of Jeremy Pauling, an artist who makes a living from his sculptures made from odds and ends, who lives a settled, quiet life, a puzzle to his mother and both his sisters, but he life changes when his mother dies, an
Mar 12, 2015 Dana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story is set in the 1960s in a Baltimore rowhouse/boarding house, owned by Mrs. Pauling, the mother of an artistic 38-year-old man, Jeremy Pauling, who never left home. Jeremy is painfully shy, and has many symptoms of agoraphobia and of autism. The story begins with the death of Jeremy's mother and the funeral arrangements that needed to be handled by his two out-of-town sisters, Amanda and Laura. Amanda is unsympathetic to her brother's inability to come out of his shell, and attempts to ...more
Jul 28, 2014 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is about the difficulty of open emotional communication, the intensity of artistic inspiration, the isolation of an artistic and autistic savant, and the resilience and indefatigability of a woman who seems born to be a mother. Jeremy's life has always been closed off and constricted, but he makes awkward success of his desire to love and protect Mary, a directionless young woman who grows into an earth-mother figure, as he grows into a self-taught, Joseph Cornell-like artist making complex a ...more
Muneera Salem-Murdock
Read in the 1980s.

"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 Jaremy to look her in the eye. For Jeremy, like one of his paper creations, is fragile and easily torn--es
Ayelet Waldman
This one broke my heart.
Apr 10, 2016 Dana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to love this book. I had just read my first Anne Tyler: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and I loved it! But I couldn't relate to the main character in this book, Jeremy, and I had a lot of trouble believing some of the goings-on. Don't get me wrong - I would have been disappointed in a cliche happy ending, but the ending to this one just left me scratching my head. Still, lots of good stuff in this novel: it was a good read, and unpredictable and "unique" (I put that in for Je ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Carmen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-fiction
Jeremy is a shut-in. He is afraid to leave the safety of his home. This becomes a confrontation when his mother dies and his sisters want to sell the old homestead. But Jeremy is able to make a living as an artist, so he stays. He lives in his own mind, not the moment. He never learned how to intrepret social cues, so he is lost in society. His mother had started a boarding house years ago when her husband left the family. Jeremy continues this practice. It turns out to have an unexpected benefi ...more
Jul 27, 2012 Eccentrika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, drama, existential
Come ho già avuto il piacere di constatare la Tyler è un'artista eccezionale. A volte, più che leggerli, i suoi romanzi mi pare di averceli davanti agli occhi come se stessi ammirando dei quadri. Riesce a descrivere i suoi personaggi in maniera così chiara che sembra di conoscerli da sempre! E anche questo romanzo non fa eccezione. Qui, il protagonista è un tipo piuttosto bislacco. A inizio libro sembra quasi che abbia qualche handicap, ma poi si capisce che semplicemente è un uomo incapace di i ...more
May 08, 2012 Thais rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jeremy ha 38 anni quando muore sua mamma. Ha sempre vissuto con lei, non si è mai allontanato dall'isolato in cui abita e la sua fonte di reddito sono le persone che da anni affittano le stanze della sua squallida casa. Ad una tratto arriva la giovane Mary con la figlioletta, e lui goffamente se ne innamora, gli sembra la donna più bella che abbia mai visto, inizia a corteggiarla in un modo così impacciato che lei non se ne accorge nemmeno. Lui sa di non essere un uomo attraente nè affascinante, ...more
Uthpala Dassanayake
I love Anne Tyler’s writing. I enjoy the manner she gets into different people and view the in their eyes and mind. Everybody has their own perception of everything, any communication is not fully adequate to express your feelings accurately or grasp other persons meaning properly.
In Celestial Navigator, the story of a man(Jeremy) who greatly lacks confident is told by several characters taking turns. But when it is Jeremy’s turn, the story has to be told in third person, because he doesn’t hav
Apr 24, 2014 Labmom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wonder, when Anne Tyler wrote this book 40 years ago, she knew meant for her main character to be so clearly Autistic, and not just one of her typical sad-sack loser males? I think the book would read much differently then. What is irritating and lazy in a developmentally typical person is understandable and sad and heartbreaking in Jeremy, given what we know about mental illness and developmental disabilities.
Marissa Morrison
This is a heartbreaking story about what happens when a woman whose main desire is to birth children hooks up with an extreme agoraphobe (recently left, after the death of his mother, with no one to take care of him). They live in a boarding house with a few other eccentrics. It's unfortunate that the whole lot of these characters don't know a psychiatrist who makes house calls.
Cherie In the Dooryard
I haven't read Anne Tyler in many years and I'd forgotten two things: 1) how she loves a stagnant, constantly perplexed male character and 2) how she can break your heart slowly and gently. I took away one star just because Jeremy was so tentative he was unrealistic. I mean, I've met dryer lint with stronger personalities. But the writing was lovely as always and the undertone was just the right amount of sad.
Aug 29, 2016 Suzi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Halfway through this book I visited this site to see what others thought of Jeremy. At that time I was glad that labels didn't exist in 1974. But at the end of the book, I really wondered about his state of mind. Pretty sad, probably my least favorite Anne Tyler book. Vinegar Girl was much more upbeat...her latest book.
Mar 21, 2016 Gail rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 18, 2007 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this about a decade ago and didn't get it. Turns out that's because I was an ignorant, sheltered teenager who didn't have any way to relate to the characters or their lifestyles. Tyler has a bewitching talent for finding the poignant and poetic in ordinary people living mundane lives. It's really hard for me to say why I like these character so much when they seem to do or offer so little. But it's easy to symphathize with the hero, as I strive to be a shut-in myself these days. Total com ...more
Alan Sader
Oct 07, 2015 Alan Sader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a note, not a review, for people who love Tyler's work but may have missed "Celestial Navigation"...Of all her 50 years of books this is my favorite. It is quintessentially Anne Tyler. I have read it more than once years apart and will again.
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Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. The Beginner's Goodbye is Anne Tyler's nineteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts a ...more
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