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Emily, Alone

O'Nan, Stewart

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Emily, Alone
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
Branch Call Number: Fiction
Characteristics: 255 p. ; 24 cm


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Sep 10, 2014
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

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
  • uncommonreader rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

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.

Feb 20, 2013
  • umschneider rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

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
  • Cupatea rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

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

May 15, 2012
  • branch_reviews rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

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

Mar 26, 2012
  • patienceandfortitude rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

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.

Jul 27, 2011

"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."
Nancy Pearl

Jul 06, 2011

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.


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