Emily, Alone

Emily, Alone

A Novel

Book - 2011
Average Rating:
Rate this:
From the author of Last Night at the Lobster , a moving vision of love and family.

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 vists 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.

Publisher: New York : Viking, 2011.
ISBN: 9780670022359
Characteristics: 255 pages ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
ArapahoeAnnaL Dec 02, 2016

A clear-eyed yet compassionate story of an aging woman as she copes with energy and optimism.

Nov 01, 2015

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.

ser_library Jun 13, 2015

I read the whole book although at the half way point I realised that nothing would "happen" and considered reading the last page..

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 10, 2014

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.

May 16, 2013

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.

umschneider Feb 20, 2013

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.

Nov 01, 2012

Painfully droll...I actually screamed out loud in frustation over the boring tedious plodding of this book. Painful!

branch_reviews May 15, 2012

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

patienceandfortitude Mar 26, 2012

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.

Mar 15, 2012

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.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at HPL

To Top