Archive for the ‘loneliness’ Tag

Missed Opportunities   Leave a comment

46014983

I’ve read most of Anne Tyler’s novels. Certain things are constant: Baltimore is the setting, the characters are often melancholy and glimpses into everyday life are a sure bet. Redhead by the Side of the Road is no exception.

Micah Mortimer is set in his ways; he’s a self-described nerd,  a Tech Hermit, the name of his freelance computer repair business. He also works as a handyman in an apartment building and this earns him free rent. His basement apartment, however, doesn’t offer much charm.

Micah has his routines, some are daily such as running first thing every morning and wiping down the kitchen after meals; others involve specific chores. For example, Monday is floor mopping day. In spite of the mundane activities, there’s something inviting about Micah. While he takes his household/work chores seriously, he has also demonstrates a whimsical side to his personality while undertaking them: He speaks with a bad French accent.

Micah’s girlfriend, Cass, suspects she’s about to be evicted and the college-age son of an old college sweetheart appears on Micah’s doorstep. Each of these disruptions causes Micah to evaluate his life and acknowledge his loneliness.  He isn’t where he is because he lacks personality, but he lacks perception, at times.

This doesn’t rank among my most beloved Anne Tyler books, but neither is it my least favorite. However, as someone who needs to wear glasses, I am especially entertained by the title and what it refers to. I won’t spoil it.

Redhead by the Side of the Road

Three-and-a-half bookmarks

Alfred A. Knopf, 2020

178 pages

Pillow Talk   Leave a comment

23602562

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is best described as sweet. This terse novel was published posthumously, and its content makes me imagine that the author was in his final days when he penned it. This is a story of finding a way out of loneliness while believing that the opinions of others have little value or impact.

Addie Moore and Lewis Waters are widowed and living in the fictional town of Holt on Colorado’s eastern plains. This is Haruf’s preferred setting as many of his previous works have centered around this small communityand its residents. Anyone familiar with his writing will recognize names and places.

One day, Addie calls Lewis. They have known each other for years, but only peripherally. She wonders if he would like to spend the night. This is no brazen, immoral solicitation. It is one lonely heart reaching out to another.

Addie’s son and grandson figure into the narrative as does Lewis’s daughter. The townspeople make sure these adult children are aware of what their parents are doing.

Haruf provides a lot of detail such as teeth brushing and lawn care for someone trading in a scarcity of words (after all, the book is less than 200 pages long).

Unfortunately, the premise, which is touching and somewhat whimsical, overshadows the writing, which is too mundane to be enchanting. Anyone who has experienced a meaningful relationship (be it lover or friend) will appreciate the warmth drawn from conversations that happen just before sleep.

Our Souls at Night
Three bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
179 pages

Self-inflicted Isolation   1 comment

4619726
All the Living by C. E. Morgan is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read; unfortunately, the story doesn’t reach the same level as the words that embrace it. It’s not bad; it just doesn’t rise to the same level as the well-crafted images. I must admit that the opening sentence immediately grabbed me with its element of intrigue: “She had never lived in a house and now, seeing the thing, she was no longer sure she wanted to.”

She is Aloma, a young woman, who spent her early years living with relatives in a trailer before being sent, at age 12, to a “mission school” – essentially an orphanage. There, she discovers a talent (and passion) for the piano. Otherwise, there is little to set her apart.

The house, on a tobacco farm, is Orren’s. When his mother and brother are killed in an accident he asks Aloma, whom he had recently met, to join him as he tries to maintain the homestead. A young preacher who befriends Aloma is added to the mix, which also includes the harsh, isolated landscape.

There’s no time frame but basic amenities are evident; it’s clear this is not a back-in-the-day tale. The house has an old, hopelessly out-of-tune piano. Orren has the farm and a reticence that comes from grief and the responsibilities he’s inherited.

Possessing little, but more than they realize, Aloma and Orren’s story isn’t just about being lonely even when others are present, but about love and self-awareness.

All the Living
Three-and-a-half bookmarks
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009
199 pages