If you want to meet a band of loyal, take-a-bullet-for-their-author fans, go on to Twitter or Facebook, or even stand on the street, and yell "STEWART O' NAN" at the top of your lungs and see what happens. This man has got his people. He has written some scarey stuff, some literary family drama, and even wrote a book about the Red Sox with Stephen King. There has been so much love swelling from social media and the blogs on this guy, I felt like I was missing out on the fun. I hate missing out! I hopped on over to my library website, and found they had "Emily, Alone" on audio, so I snapped it up.
"Emily, Alone" is actually a sequel to "Wish You Were Here", a novel about Emily Maxwell trying to hold her family together after the death of her husband. It is unfortunate that I didn't read that one first, but I was assured by Beth Fish Reads and Lakeside Musing that the novel would still stand on its own.
Synopsis: It has been years since Emily's husband died, and still the 80 year-old widow is struggling to navigate through her life alone. She has her aging dog Rufus and her sister-in-law to keep her company, but she wrestles with loneliness, the friends that keep dying, her progressing frailty, her middle-aged children that have their own life and demons to battle, and settling her affairs before she dies.
Sometimes she is shocked by her independence...like going out and buying a new car with good gas mileage! Or putting her dog on a diet and whipping him back into shape. Or maintaining her garden. At the same time, she is frustrated with her own weakness of pining away for her kids and grandkids calls and thank you letters and visits. Or needing to ask for help from the neighbor when the sidewalks get snowy.
At it's heart, "Emily, Alone" is a character study that focuses on the dignity and indignity of aging, in a tone that is deeply emotional but realistic and unflinching.
My thoughts: I'm not a huge fan of character studies, I'm finding. I need some kind of plot, some climax in which to work towards in a story. This book was perhaps a wee bit too gentle for me to call a favorite, but I did sincerely enjoy it.
I adored Emily. She reminded me of my grandmother. Feisty, no-nonsense, with an attitude of "I'll be damned if I let my age prevent me from doing something". And even though I'm 35 years away from being in her position, I was right there with her in spirit. I became profoundly melancholy observing life pass her by, her kids and grandkids moving through their lives with little regard for her. O' Nan, who is only a handful of years older than I, somehow "got" it, which I consider amazing.
While I would not consider this an uplifting story, it does have moments of hope. Emily is doing her thing, trying to keep her family together, and living her life to its fullest. Or at least as full as she is physically able. O' Nan has also set up the ending to lead into another installment.
A word about the audio production: Our narrator was Andrea Gallo, who was new to me, but has narrated many other books, including ones by Debbie Macomber and Temple Grandin. She portrayed Emily, in her spunk and frustrations, perfectly.
3.5 out of 5 stars