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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  56,803 ratings  ·  3,556 reviews
Carson McCullers’ prodigious first novel was published to instant acclaim when she was just twenty-three. Set in a small town in the middle of the deep South, it is the story of John Singer, a lonely deaf-mute, and a disparate group of people who are drawn towards his kind, sympathetic nature. The owner of the café where Singer eats every day, a young girl desperate to gro ...more
Paperback, 317 pages
Published August 31st 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1940)
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Community Reviews

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I knew nothing about this book at all. Well, except for the title, I’d definitely heard the title before – but I would have bet money the book was written by a man and that it was bad romance novel, at least, that would have been my best guess. Instead, this is now perhaps one of my all-time favourite American novels. It can be compared without the least blush of embarrassment with Steinbeck at his best and Harper Lee out killing mocking birds – and there are many, many points of comparison betw ...more
“Whoever has an ear to hear, let him hear.” John Singer is a deaf-mute who walks the streets of his city at night. Singer attracts “lonely hunters,” who like Narcissus, see their own image reflected in the kind face of Singer. He has become all things to all people, and, within his silence, people hear only themselves.

Four characters (a teenage girl, a restaurateur, a doctor, and a carnie) bear the burden of being different from others in this Southern mill town in the late 1930’s. Sometimes, t
Jul 02, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the tin man
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: thank you, whoever you are

She went there, didn't she.

As I read this novel, I could tell McCullers was setting the stage for something truly horrible to happen. And horrible things did happen. But they were never as bad as I thought they would be. Until...

Oh yes, she waited until the very end to rip my heart from my chest, throw it on the floor, stomp on it with her pumps and then throw it into the ocean to be eaten by sharks.

How does someone write a book this rich and wise and honest at 23? How does a young girl write s
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4.99* of five

A near-perfect book, a joy of a read, and a heartfelt "thank you" to the goddesses of literature for it. My review has moved out of the purview of censors and moneygrubbers to my blog.

It turns out that Miss McCullers did most of her great writing - most of her entire writing - before she was 30. Rock and roll! After 30 she was too busy having ghastly illnesses and marrying the same guy three or four times, and dodging invitations to a suicide pact from the guy she married all those times. So when she was 22 - I ask you! - she wrote this first novel which is a stone American classic. I had heretofore thought that absorbing a ton of influences and developing a uniq
Let's get this out of the way. Garima, Dolors and Aubrey's gorgeously written tributes to the spirit of this American classic have pretty much made the task of composing additional paeans unnecessary. So my review is only going to be a shoddily-disguised justification for upgrading an initial 4-star rating to a deserving 5-star one. No I didn't choose to accord that previously withheld star bowing to a monster named 'peer pressure'.

The actual worth of a work of literature can be measured by the
Artistically formed constellations hold the promise of beauty and solidarity but Loneliness is that single star I once spotted on a dark moonless night. It shows the right way, they said. That caused a profound sadness in me for reasons unknown. Now I know. A little.
What did he understand? Nothing. Where was he headed? Nowhere. What did he want? To know. What? A meaning. Why? A riddle.

There are definitions galore for life and each one of them carries the trace of bittersweet truth which is har
Sing for the South, the Nation, the World Entire, for they know not what they do.

Sing for the man with the matted suit and pearl-rimmed tongue, the rustic know how and the fine edged intellectual gait, the words, the words, always the words. He walks with his heart bound in a lexicon and pinned upon his mouth, and where he walks he sees the terrible secret and cannot keep silent. Long ago he stripped from himself his measure of complacent comfort, and now he wanders in a naked anger, ever seekin
Apr 29, 2012 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every one should read this book
Recommended to Mike by: O.B. Emerson, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, The University of Alabama
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCuller's Portrait of the Faces Behind the Masks

Thanks to a good friend, Jeff Keeten, now residing with Dorothy and Toto,too, in Kansas, I've learned I am only gently mad. It was a relief to discover that. Because my self-analysis has been that I'm excessively obsessive when it comes to the love of books. After having taken his recommendation to read A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes, my so
By the time Mozart was 5, he was composing his own music and performing for royalty. John Stuart Mill had mastered Latin, Greek, Algebra and Euclidean Geometry by the time he was 8. Bobby Fischer won the US Chess Championship at the age of 14. When Orson Welles was 20, he directed his own adaptation of Macbeth as a WPA project with unemployed black performers in Harlem. Why I myself, if you’ll forgive me for crowing, memorized the batting averages of every member of the Cincinnati Reds’ starting ...more
Sep 29, 2013 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who speak and have no time to listen
Shelves: read-in-2013
“Go, my songs, to the lonely and the unsatisfied,
Go also to the nerve-racked, go to the enslaved-by-convention,
Bear to them my contempt for their oppressors.
Go as a great wave of cool water,
Bear my contempt of oppressors.”

“Go”, commands Ezra Pound in his poem “Comission” .
And so I obey, and I go.
I go and listen to the mute choir of the lonesome and the restless, of the disinherited and the excluded, of the alienated and the embittered.
Isolated voices withering in despair, wrestling in incom
Duffy Pratt
I may come back and give this four stars, but for now I can't.

I first started this book maybe two years ago. I got about 100 pages into it and stopped. I didn't stop because I disliked it. Rather, it seemed at the time a natural result from the inertia and momentum of the book itself. Basically, I wasn't quite sure whether I had stopped or whether the book itself had simply stopped and I was just going along with it.

I picked it up again because I've always had a nagging feeling about it, and bec

The book is finished. But not the story.

All the pain, all the loneliness – Jake Blount, Doctor Copeland, Mick – and Singer – Carson has tied it all into a tiny little package, so small, almost a seed – and placed it into the reader, where it will now stay, maybe grow … but certainly stay. And perhaps blossom in the reader as it did in the observer Biff, who looked into the abyss. As I have. I move the book from the “currently reading” to the “read” shelf … and place a copy on one other shelf …
K.D. Absolutely
May 19, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Time 100; Modern Library 100; Oprah Book of the Month; E.G.
Shelves: 501, time-100, saddest
A credible friend here in GR told me that this novel is the saddest he had ever read. That’s the main reason why I read this. Well, it is the saddest and most depressing among the fiction ones that I’ve read too. Saddest among the ones I found earlier to be downright depressing: Good Morning, Midnight (1939) by Jean Rhys and The God of Small Things (1997) by Arundhati Roy. Well, I am still to read The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Also, the holocaust-base ...more
Sep 23, 2010 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the red queen
Recommended to Mariel by: I was hoping for the head of the queen
The ending of Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is one of the saddest I've ever read. In fact, I'd not hestitate to say it is one of the worst things that could ever happen to me, and I hope like hell it never does. I related too much to situations of concentrating on some small special thing to get through the day. Hearing music and stories in my head. The luxury of energy (and the heart left) to expend on such thoughts should not be taken for granted (even if it is just about some ...more
Jul 10, 2009 Chloe rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for a darker To Kill A Mockingbird
Recommended to Chloe by: Charity
I find myself consistantly tongue-tied about this book. I've begun nearly four different reviews of this eminantly enjoyable read that have all petered away into nothingness as I try to put into words just what it was that gripped me about McCullers' opus. The first word I can think of is shock. Shock that I had heard next to nothing about this book until pulling it from my shelf. Shock that I have gone so long without it being assigned to me in a class or forced into my hands by a friend. Shock ...more

Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I'm one of them.

That's a Ray Bradbury quote, from Dandelion Wine , but I feel it is an apt description of this very young author who seems to carry the whole weight of the world on her shoulders. How is it possible to have so intimate a knowledge of
Stephen M
Music selection

No, I was never much of a dancer, but I know enough to know you gotta move, your idiot body around. And you can’t, can’t settle down until the idiot in your blood settles down. And you know your heart but it’s an idiot heart.

I hate to take on the topic of writing, given that I have only been ‘writing’ (if weeks of self-loathing followed by 4 hour sessions of obsessive scribbling could be called writing) for the past year and a half. And the only defense I can muster is that desp
A novel of misfits and dreamers: the drunk with his impressive rage; a doctor with a strangled voice & failing lungs; a gangly girl chasing a fragment of a song to hunt the full Symphony and the proprietor of The New York Cafe, his compassion for the crippled and his deep desire to understand the heart of his patrons.

At the centre of the tale is the deaf mute John Singer. The four misfits visit Singer and communicate their dreams, desires & woes. They are certain that Singer, in his sile
Camille Stein


Dondequiera que uno mire, hay mezquindad y corrupción. Esta habitación, esta botella de vino de uvas, estas frutas de la cesta, son todos productos de ganancias y pérdidas. Nadie puede vivir sin prestar su aceptación pasiva a la mezquindad. Alguien tiene que agotarse por completo por cada bocado que comemos y cada pedazo de tela que llevamos puesto… y nadie parece darse cuenta. Todo el mundo está ciego, mudo, obtuso…, estúpido y mezquino.

Pero ¿qué ocurre con un hombre que sabe? Ve cómo los h
This is a novel of the American South in the decade or so preceding the Civil Rights Movement. The central character is a deaf mute of almost saintly demeanor, Singer. His story constitutes the narrative spine along which the stories of his fellow characters are strung. These include Mink Kelley, who is dealing with late Depression Era America from the point of view of a 13 year old girl; Dr. Copeland, the unnamed town's "negro" doctor, who knows that civil rights for his people is in the offing ...more
Aug 16, 2007 Jamie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE IN THE WORLD
Arg. This book is amazing. I could never write this book. Apparently it's heavily autobiographical and the character Mick is based off of McCullers own childhood. She wrote this book when she was twenty-three (not to be self-oriented, but I'm twenty-five). She was very interested in music and studied to be a concert pianist, which is why she composed The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in three parts, like a fuge or something piano-oriented (I forget because I'm not a pianist, either.)
Some how, in thre
Like most of McCullers stories, this is concerns lonely people living in the deep south. This one is set during WW2, told with strong musical currents (she had a place to study piano at the Julliard, and this shines through most of her work) and a radical passion against poverty and injustice.

The language is generally quite simple in terms of vocabulary and sentence length, yet the characters and events are all the more poetic and vivid for this apparent simplicity - a difficult literary trick
3.5 stars

The heart is a lonely hunter was one of those books you keep coming across on books lists over the years and it always piqued my interest and yet I never got around to reading it until now.

Written in 1940 by Carson McCullers and set in a small Southern town in America.

A character driven novel that highlights the loneliness of it's main characters and the racial injustices of the time.

I was really surprised to learn that the author was a 23 year old girl at the time she wrote this novel
Carson McCullers was only 22/23 when she wrote this; an amazing feat and a truly great novel. The plot centres around John Singer a man who is deaf and mute. Singer initially lives with his friend Spiros Antanopoulos. Their companionship comes to an end when Spiros's mental health deteriorates and he is admitted to an asylum. Singer then takes a room in the Kelly hpusehold. Here a group of people gravitate around him.
Mick Kelly, the daughter of the household has musical aspirations and feels ou
Sep 16, 2014 Zoeytron rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zoeytron by: Louisa
He arrived seemingly from nowhere, taking a room in the Kelly family boarding house. It would be fair to say that John Singer is a man who marches to the beat of a different drum. He is a deaf mute who, paradoxically, becomes a sounding board for broken individuals who seek him out to tell him of their hopes and dreams. With listening ears that cannot hear, Singer's calm and understanding gaze provides solace to those who are outraged at social injustices, wrongs that need to be righted. He bear ...more
Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is through-the-roof magnificent because, in large part, Ms. McCullers’s (in her early fucking twenties, at no less!) novel exemplifies literary bravery, honesty, and brilliance. When I finished this book I re-read a couple passages, put it down, and sat quietly. I wanted the feeling to last. It’s one of those books.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’s sun is John Singer, a small city deaf-mute who repairs jewelry and, over the novel’s year, involuntarily
This is an odd little book. For such an established classic, it doesn't seem to have much in the way of grand pronouncements about humanity, technical innovations, an unusually eloquent voice, or even a particularly interesting plot. I was reminded of John Steinbeck, not just because both him and Mrs. McCullers are both middlebrow mid-century American writers who chronicle the common people with an earnestness that sometimes descends into hand-wringing, but also just because of the sound of her ...more
This book made me weep when I first read it as a teenager. The sadness of the characters was so overwhelming. But I loved the writing, and the book stayed with me. When I read it again a few years ago, it still packed an emotional punch. And somehow, for all the sadness in the book, I don't find it in the least bit depressing. Maybe it's the ability of McCullers's writing to remind the reader of the redemptive power of storytelling.
If this were a Debbie Macomber novel, a group of misfits would coalesce around a single galvanizing figure, resulting in a community of like-minded souls who would then knit their way to happiness and inner peace.

This isn't. Yes, there are misfits. Yes, there is a single galvanizing figure. No, there isn't knitting. And (view spoiler)
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Carson McCullers (February 19, 1917 – September 29, 1967) was an American writer. She wrote fiction, often described as Southern Gothic, that explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South.

From 1935 to 1937 she divided her time, as her studies and health dictated, between Columbus and New York and in September 1937 she married an ex-soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCul
More about Carson McCullers...
The Member of the Wedding The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories Reflections in a Golden Eye Collected Stories Clock without Hands

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“Next to music, beer was best.” 1166 likes
“Maybe when people longed for a thing that bad the longing made them trust in anything that might give it to them.” 304 likes
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