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A clear-eyed yet compassionate story of an aging woman as she copes with energy and optimism.
Dreary beyond belief. The only merit is that the author successfully captures the voice, habits and attitudes of a fussing and irritating old woman with every bleak miserable domestic detail. If you want to read about the loneliness of old age, try the brilliant Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor; if you want something funny, try Deaf Sentence by David Lodge.
I read the whole book although at the half way point I realised that nothing would "happen" and considered reading the last page..
This is a story that sounds bleak but is instead hopeful and lightly comic. Emily is aging, widowed, reflecting on her life, fearing infirmary, wishing for closer family ties and preparing for a diminishing future. No self-pity here, though. She quietly and with determination expands her independence, starting with purchasing her very first car and taking to the road again. This is an unhurried novel—perfect for a long summer evening.
This is la vie quotidienne of an elderly, deeply conservative woman in Pittsburg. Although not a book I would normally enjoy, it was somehow honest.
O'nan treats his characters as he does his prose--unadorned, just right as is, and kind of amazing. Emily Alone, like his other books, is a slim volume, just the right length to coax the extraordinary from the ordinary without weighing it down with a heavy hand.
Painfully droll...I actually screamed out loud in frustation over the boring tedious plodding of this book. Painful!
Set in Pittsburg, Emily Maxwell is an 80 year old recent widow, mother, grandmother, sister-in-law and owner of an aging dog. Her life seems to have become stuck in a rut as of late. She is challenged to rediscover her independence when her sister-in-law Arlene faints while out for their routine breakfast buffet and ends up hospitalized. Emily has become accustomed to being chauffeured around town by Arlene, so now she has to find courage to begin driving again herself. As Emily begins her role as caregiver to Arlene, it prompts some new changes in her life. O’Nan is able to clearly portray the emotions and feelings of regret, pride, joy and sorrow that an 80 year old woman would be experiencing, but in a lighthearted compassionate way. The reader is not depressed but encouraged to see Emily continuing to branch out and continue to learn and develop even in her final years. She is often reflective, imagining the future when she is no longer there, but resigned to whatever may be.
Reviewed by CS
So who needs a plot? I don't. This is a very well-written portrayal of an elderly widow who lives in Pittsburgh, and her life, past and present. It is a bit of a cautionary tale, as in I don't want that to be my future. She if very likable, but is pretty much stuck in a routine, with very little change, other than the deaths of friends, and very little to anticipate. I want to read more O'Nan.
Well laid out in respect to the feelings and concerns of an individual facing their twilight years.
For me, the story plodded along without much build to a climax; perhaps I was expecting something more? ~ I am not a qualified literary critic.
I do agree it touches on many aspects that simply...are: dealing with her aging pet, dealing with in-laws and grown children, dealing with death of friends and spouses, dealing with loneliness and worries of being forgotten. I just found it rather....flat.
A true treasure. Builds to a moving crescendo. For all time, this book nails life in America in 2007/08 (set in Pittsburgh area). A mundane story—an elderly widow’s life. Getting the flu is one of the main events. O’Nan seems to have confidence in the accumulative power of recording daily phenomena, and he records these with elegant simplicity. His writing is extraordinary. If melodrama isn’t your thing, you’ll likely fall in love with Emily, Alone.
"Emily Maxwell is an 80-year-old widow, mother and grandmother; she's loyal to her late husband's sister, Arlene (although she doesn't always like her). (O'Nan first introduced Emily in his earlier book, Wish You Were Here, but it's not necessary to read it first.) O'Nan gives us a vivid picture of Emily's slowing-down life: the museum visits, the funerals of friends, a trip to the flower show, doing the crossword puzzles she loves, worrying about her aging dog Rufus, listening to classical music and, after Arlene's stroke, caring for her sometimes difficult sister-in-law. O'Nan is spot on as he makes us understand the push and pull, tension and love, of three generations of a family, as he describes, for example, Emily's attempt to remain close to — but not dependent on — her two grown children and four grandchildren. She tries — and sometimes succeeds — in not resenting when thank-you notes don't arrive promptly (or at all), or when long-lived family traditions are thrown to the wind by the younger generation. In this glimpse into one family's life over the course of most of a year, O'Nan shines a light into all our lives. Fans of Evan Connell's masterpiece, Mrs. Bridge, or Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer-winning Olive Kitteridge are natural readers for this powerful and moving novel."