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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Emily Alone by Stewart O'Nan

Emily, Alone: A NovelEmily, Alone: A Novel by Stewart O'Nan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is hard to believe that a man could write so realistically about the thoughts of an elderly woman living alone, or that I could find the result so hard to put down.

My favorite chapter, "Kleenex," began and ended on page 76. In it, Emily prepares for a Christmas visit from her daughter and young adult grand-children.  When she uses the last tissue from the box in her bathroom, she travels throughout the house weighing tissue boxes and swapping them around before deciding where the new full box should go. "Only then, with order restored, could she go on with her day."  Priceless :)

Emily also contends with the neighbor's cat who leaves footprints across her car in the garage. Complaining to Betty, her once-a-week housekeeper, Betty asks, "You think that matters to him?"  Emily replies, "Oh, he knows exactly what he's doing. That's the way cats are, very calculating."

On page 126, Emily is recovering from strep and unable to eat better as advised by Dr. Sayid. Chastising herself, Emily thinks, "Selfish and deceitful, her mother would say - the worst thing a person could be." The complete opposite of Jesus Christ, the impossible model to which Emily spent her childhood being compared.

I suppose it's the feeling of being a fly on the wall in Emily's life that kept me going with this novel. And, I'm not sure that it would appeal to much younger people.  But, for me, I could laugh, worry, remember, and regret right along with Emily.

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