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Emily, Alone (Emily Maxwell #2)

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,461 Ratings  ·  756 Reviews
A bittersweet tale of love and longing from the bestselling author of Last Night at the Lobster. Look out for City of Secrets coming from Viking on April 26, 2016

Once again making the ordinary and overlooked not merely visible but vital to understanding our own lives, Stewart O'Nan confirms his position as an American master with Emily, Alone. A sequel to the bestselling,
Paperback, 272 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Mar 21, 2011 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2011
Stewart O’Nan may simply be genetically incapable of writing a bad book. His characters are written with precision, intelligence and detail; they’re so luminously alive that a reader can accurately guess about what they’re eating for dinner or what brand toothpaste they use.

In Emily, Alone, Mr. O’Nan revisits Emily, the Maxell family matriarch from a prior book, Wish You Were Alone. Anyone who is seeking an action-based book or “a story arc” (as taught in college writing classes) will be sorely
Mar 31, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This slow, meditative novel is not for those who read for a fast plot. Nothing much actually happens in this character study of an elderly woman dealing with the loneliness and complications of growing older. She nurses her sister-in-law back to health after a health scare, navigates the tricky waters of dealing with her grown children and grandchildren without trying to impose upon them or aggravate them, attends services for old friends who pass away, and tries to fill the endless hours that l ...more
Aug 04, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm a big fan of Stewart O'Nan and have read several of his books. They're not easy reading even though most are not overly long, coming in at a publisher's dream of 300+ pages. O'Nan's stories are slow and complex with a lot of room for perspective of the reader.

Emily Alone left me feeling drained and a bit sad. It's never quite clear, at least to me, exactly what age Emily is. I'd like to think she is way older than me but I don't think that's true. This perhaps is the reason for the emotiona
Lynne Spreen
Dec 22, 2015 Lynne Spreen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: midlife
I first read Emily, Alone a couple years ago. I heard the author being interviewed on NPR and was fascinated by the idea of a novel about a woman who is in the very later years of her life. However, the story didn't resonate for me at the time.

Then a few months ago, I was looking for midlife fiction and someone suggested this book, which I still had in my bookcase. This is rare for me. I don't usually save books that don't resonate. Why this one?

Maybe I needed to mature, because when I read it a
Bill Krieger
About 200 pages in, I realized that nothing was actually going to happen in Emily, Alone. Meh. It was okay, so I kept on reading. I enjoyed the portrait of a senior citizen living alone enough to give it 3 stars and a thumbs up.

Emily, Alone is just a character study of an old, retired widow living in Pittsburgh. Now, you might think that the life of a retired widow in Pittsburgh might not be that exciting, and you'd be correct. O'Nan goes into great detail about the very mundane activities of Em
Apr 07, 2011 Nicole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure about all the great reviews this book received. Yes, Stewart O'Nan is a good author (Songs for the Missing and The Good Wife are among his best novels), however, NOTHING happens in this book. Yes, 80-year-old Emily keeps busy worrying about her aging dog, nagging her adult children about their upcoming visits (she has to plan!), and going to museum openings and breakfast buffets (always with a coupon) with her sister-in-law, Arlene. The reader spends nearly a year with Emily...and t ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Before you are allowed to post a review of this novel, I’m going to have to ask you to present an official id. An official id with your dob on it. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think a person under fifty can really appreciate this book and I’m not sure those of you under fifty would have the patience to read a book where the biggest plot points are repairing a scratch on her new car.

Emily is an elderly widow, in the last years of her life. Her family, except for an elderly sister-in-law, lives far
Jun 07, 2011 Mom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mom by: NYT
Shelves: fiction
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
Jan 07, 2013 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first five star book for 2013, but it comes with a warning. If you are looking for a book with a lot of action, this isn't it. Instead, this is a character-driven look into the life of an 80 year old woman as she nears the end of her life. Emily Maxwell is a widow living alone in a changing Pittsburg neighborhood. Her children are scattered and visit infrequently and she feels that, because of her strongly expressed opinions, she has built a wall between herself, her children, and her ...more
Jul 14, 2011 Judith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have finally found my genre and I predict a new category of literature for aging female baby-boomers. When we find a book that appeals to us, but that I figure guys would have no interest, it can no longer be called chick-lit; it will have to be called crone-lit. "Emily, Alone" is just that. Nothing happens in this book, yet I gobbled it down, which just goes to prove my theory that the success of a book depends all on the author's voice, not the story. A little old lady and her aging springer ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Emily Alone is a quiet little book and as someone from Pittsburgh as well as someone over 60, I really enjoyed the story. One reviewer wrote that you need to be over fifty to enjoy this book and I have to agree that you have to have a certain understanding of Emily' s mindset to appreciate the story, such as, not driving without her husband for years and making a very brave decision to not only drive again but to buy her own car. When I recently made a trip back to Pittsburgh, I was very proud o ...more
Nov 09, 2014 Roberta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, americana
Romanzo acquistato quasi per caso, Emily, Alone si è rivelato bellissimo. Storia senza storia dell'anziana Emily, che vive sola in una casa di Pittsburgh. In realtà non c'è trama: seguiamo la sua esistenza per un periodo di alcuni mesi, una quotidianità scandita da ben pochi eventi.

Di questo libro mi hanno colpito due cose: la prima è che l'autore, un uomo, e anche relativamente giovane (aveva una cinquantina d'anni del 2011, quando ha pubblicato questo romanzo) sia riuscito a descrivere così b
Jan 01, 2012 Kit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this sequel to Stewart O’Nan’s Wish You Were Here, exploring Emily’s life alone without her husband, her children’s families busy and geographically removed. As with some of his other books, there wasn’t much in the way of plot but was rich in character development.

This book made me confront the idea of what it would be like to live alone, and just how I would fill my days. Would, like Emily, my mundane daily chores become rituals of comfort, providing my life with structure and meani
Jan 28, 2013 Les rated it really liked it
Actual rating: 4.75/5

I loved this book! It was just the right thing to read during the busy holiday season, as the chapters are short (almost vignettes) and I could easily pick it up and set it down without losing interest. I loved Emily (and her loyal dog, Rufus) and I found myself nodding my head, feeling a bit like I was seeing a glimpse of my future self in some of Emily's situations and emotions. It also brought to mind memories of my maternal grandmother (who lived alone for 11 years after
Aug 01, 2012 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think Stewart O'Nan can write a bad book. He one of my favorite authors. Still, if it's an action-packed book you're looking for, ’Emily, Alone’ will be a disappointment. If you're looking for a wonderfully written book about everyday life, in this case that of an elderly woman, you will love this book. It isn't a book I'd pack for a trip to the beach. I'd save it for a time when I could sit back and relish each word, which I did, and hated when it ended and I had to finally put the book ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm beginning to see that no one writes about "nothing" more beautifully than Stewart O'Nan. His characters are so real, the meaning in the mundane so poignant, his books are simply impossible to set aside. It helps to have read "Wish You Were Here", but "Emily, Alone" is a worthy stand-alone novel, as well. At this point, I'd be surprised if anything he writes could ever disappoint.
switterbug (Betsey)
This is a gentle, sensitive, but unsentimental story about the marginalized lives of the elderly. Eighty-year-old Pittsburgh widow Emily Maxwell lives alone with her ripe old intractable dog, Rufus, in the modest and dignified neighborhood where she raised her children and loved her husband. She's alert, oriented, and productive in the garden, a wisp of a woman with a waning appetite and bones like balsa. She goes about her days with routine ruminations and mingled sensations. Her nights are lon ...more
Some other reviewers have said Stewart O’Nan’s lovely book, Emily, Alone was “too slow” or didn’t contain “enough plot” for them. I loved Emily, Alone precisely because it was so lovely and leisurely paced and didn’t contain a lot of plot twists and turns or overly dramatic situations.

Readers first met Emily Maxwell in 2002’s Wish You Were Here. In that book, which takes place at Emily’s Chautauqua lake house shortly after Emily’s husband, Henry has died, we also met Emily’s family, many of whom
Jul 13, 2011 Felice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stewart O'Nan is a brilliant writer. He is a master of making small, ordinary lives important, meaningful and unexpectedly eventful. In his newest novel Emily Alone he expands a character from an earlier novel, Emily Maxwell the family matriarch in Wish You Were Here, into a heroine.

There is nothing remarkable about Emily or her life. Emily is 80 years old. She has out lasted a husband and raised a family. She is healthy for her age and financial secure. She even has good relationships with her
Larry Hoffer
Stewart O'Nan is one of my favorite authors. He has written some absolutely phenomenal books, including Snow Angels, which is one of my favorite books of all time. He has an incredible ability to tell a story that stays with you, and creates vivid, multidimensional characters. His latest book, Emily, Alone is a perfect example of his literary talents, and I read the whole thing in one day.

Emily Maxwell is growing older, and she's not enjoying it entirely. She doesn't enjoy the changes her subur
Ron Charles
Nov 25, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lately, Stewart O’Nan hasn’t made it easy to recommend his novels. The only thing they’ve got going for them is their superb quality. But ask, “What’s it about?” and his fans sound defensive or pretend they’re getting an important call on their cellphones. Just try persuading your book club to read a novel about the day a Red Lobster restaurant closes. (Without incident.) Or how about a novel that describes an old lady waiting for spring? (It comes.) Face it: O’Nan has become the Kobayashi Maru ...more
Apr 23, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O’Nan, Stewart. EMILY, ALONE. (2011). *****.
O’Nan lets us follow Emily Maxwell, whom we met in a previous novel – “Wish You Were Here” – as she navigates her way through a difficult period of life. Emily is an older woman, a widow of many years, whose children have all moved away and started their own families. She sees them mainly on the holidays – though that’s not a given. She still lives in the house that she and her husband bought in a neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and carefully notes the ch
May 23, 2011 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Diane, Cathy, NOT Sally
Recommended to Doreen by: myself
Stewart O'Nan shares several months of Emily's life with us in this story. As fate would have it, Emily has grown old and her children have long ago moved away. She doesn't see as much of them and her grandchildren as she would like. Her husband died several years ago and her sister-in-law is her frequent companion.

Emily scrutinizes her roles in life as daughter, wife, mother, and friend, finding that she comes up short in every category. She eventually understands that she had shortcomings as a
Aug 05, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An 80-year-old widow is an unusual protagonist, and the events of Emily’s life are small ones. In fact, not a lot happens in this book. There are family visits, and walking the dog, and a hospital scare with sister-in-law Arlene, and the purchase of a car. But Emily has an active life going on in her head, sometimes in the present and often in the past. Stewart O’Nan devoted a meditative novel to that interior life, and it turned out to be full of compelling observations.

Emily’s days are counte
Mij Woodward
Dec 27, 2011 Mij Woodward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I should not have liked this book at all, as the action is so SLOW. Actually, to say there is any action at all is a misnomer. It's really the interior life of an 80-year-old woman facing her death, looking at her life, her children's and grandchildren's lives.

I believe O'Nan purposely made this a slow sort of uneventful read. Because that atmosphere helps present the life of an older person, dealing with the mundane, no longer in the midst of a lot of action (like raising kids).

The chapter that
I had read "Last Night at the Lobster", O'Nan's bittersweet account of the final shift at a Red Lobster restaurant about to close for good, and was hooked by his understated style, his ability to find meaning in the everyday details of ordinary lives, and by how unexpectedly moving that short book managed to be.

The same strengths are to be found in "Emily, Alone", the account of a year in the life of Emily Maxwell, widowed and living alone in Pittsburgh (apparently Emily also appears in an earli
Oct 12, 2015 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh how I hated to come to the end of this one. I want to go back and visit Emily, and Rufus, and Arlene.

A lot of this reminded me of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant as there is not a lot of action or change in Emily's life. She thinks about setting the clocks forward, having the flashlights ready on a stormy night, and making sure the Kleenex boxes are allocated appropriately. In short, she frets. I fret too, Emily. Fat lot of good it does us.
Jul 10, 2011 Deidre rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t love this book and I am an avid reader of O'Nan. I tired of the main character, Emily, a woman in her eighties whom O’Nan wrote about in his book about family, Wish You Were Here. In fact, all the characters were in the book – her sister-in-law, Arlene; her son, Kenneth; her daughter, Margaret; and their children. There were times I settled into the beauty of his writing about everyday life, but then he just went on about it too long and I became bored with it. I mean, I live an everyda ...more
Feb 19, 2012 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pacific-u-mfa
Emily, Alone is a language-immersion program in the dialect of old age. Emily is an octogenarian widow living with only her old dog for company in Pittsburgh, and O’Nan makes us feel her physical limitations, loneliness and loss through the accumulation of the small, quotidian details of her days. We are told not only what she eats but whether she finds it to salty or dry. We follow her thoughts, even when she is just reminding herself to use the bathroom before leaving the house. We root for he ...more
Emily is at one of the most interesting junctures of life, that point when much of life is in the past and only a little remains in the future. This, of course, leads to much thinking as she goes through her days of taking care of the dog, seeing her family, gardening, listening to music, and drinking a bit of wine. She has the usual social life of an older person: she has belonged to a club for most of her life, and she knows so many. She goes to church. She keeps up with those whose children w ...more
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west of sunset by stewart o'nan 2 6 Nov 10, 2014 05:35PM  
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Stewart O'Nan is the author of eleven novels, including Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying, a story collection, and two works of nonfiction. His previous novel, Last Night at the Lobster, was a national bestseller, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was named one of the New York Public Library Books to Remember. Additionally, Granta named him one of the 20 Best Young Ameri ...more
More about Stewart O'Nan...

Other Books in the Series

Emily Maxwell (2 books)
  • Wish You Were Here

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“Often, as she leafed through the sticky, plastic-coated pages, spotting herself with a frizzy perm or wearing a loud, printed blouse, she was struck by how long life was, and how much time had passed, and she wished she could go back and apologize to those closest to her, explain that she understood now. Impossible, and yet the urge to return and be a different person never lessened, grew only more acute.” 4 likes
“I'm sorry you don't like coming back here," her mother often said, to cap whatever petty dust-up they'd had. How could Emily explain: it wasn't her mother or Kersey she'd disowned, but her earlier self, that strange, ungrateful girl who strove to be first at everything and threw tantrums when she failed.” 4 likes
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