Emily, Alone, by Stewart O'Nan (New York: Viking, 2011).
"A sequel to the bestselling, much-beloved Wish You Were Here, Stewart O'Nan's intimate new novel follows Emily Maxwell, a widow whose grown children have long moved away. She dreams of visits by her grandchildren while mourning the turnover of her quiet Pittsburgh neighborhood, but when her sole companion and sister-in-law Arlene faints at their favorite breakfast buffet, Emily's days change. As she grapples with her new independence, she discovers a hidden strength and realizes that life always offers new possibilities. Like most older women, Emily is a familiar yet invisible figure, one rarely portrayed so honestly. Her mingled feelings -- of pride and regret, joy and sorrow -- are gracefully rendered in wholly unexpected ways. Once again making the ordinary and overlooked not merely visible but vital to understanding our own lives, Emily, Alone confirms O'Nan as an American master."
It was hard to sit down and start this one -- I was on a rereading crap, don't-tax-the-brain spree last week -- but once I did, wow. What a lovely, gentle, sweet book. Read the author's Songs for the Missing some time ago and enjoyed that well enough, but this one was something different altogether. First book I've ever read about aging that didn't make me absolutely dread the eventual sunset years of my own life.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.