Tyler, Anne (1941- ), American novelist, highly regarded for her perceptive depictions of middle-class American family life. Her major theme is the ability of ordinary people to create effective, if limited, strategies for dealing with the tragedies and upheavals of everyday life. Her novel Breathing Lessons (1988) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1989.
Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her family moved several times before settling in a North Carolina Quaker commune when she was seven years old. In 1952 the family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. Tyler graduated from high school at the age of 16 and then entered Duke University, where she studied under American novelist Reynolds Price, earning a B.A. degree in 1961. In 1963 she married Taghi Mohammed Modarressi, an Iranian-born psychiatrist, and accompanied him to McGill University in Montréal, Québec, Canada, where she wrote her first two novels, If Morning Ever Comes (1964) and The Tin Can Tree (1965). In 1967 Tyler and her husband moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she devoted her time to writing fiction and raising their two daughters.
Tyler’s novels are often set in rural North Carolina or in the city of Baltimore, which she began to claim as her own fictional territory with her fourth novel, The Clock Winder (1972), the story of a young woman’s year off from college and the relationship she develops with the Baltimore family for whom she works. Tyler’s sixth novel, Searching for Caleb (1976), a story chronicling four generations of a Baltimore family while exploring the ideas of the needs of the individual, brought her widespread recognition. Her tenth book and first best-seller, The Accidental Tourist (1985), is the story of a man learning to deal with the random death of his son. It was the basis for a 1988 motion picture starring American actors Geena Davis and William Hurt. Tyler’s next novel, Breathing Lessons, is the story of a couple coming to terms with middle age and the seeming unimportance of their lives. Her other novels include A Slipping Down Life (1970), Celestial Navigation (1974), Earthly Possessions (1977), Morgan’s Passing (1980), Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982), Saint Maybe (1991), Ladder of Years (1995), A Patchwork Planet (1998), and Back When We Were Grownups (2001).