Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Emily, Alone” as Want to Read:
Emily, Alone
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Emily, Alone (Emily Maxwell #2)

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  3,293 ratings  ·  732 reviews
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, much-beloved Wish You Were Here, O'Nan's intimate novel follows Emily Maxwell, a widow whose grown children have long departed. She dreams of visits from her gran
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published March 17th 2011 by Viking (first published January 1st 2011)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Emily, Alone, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Emily, Alone

Emily, Alone by Stewart O'NanTime To Let Go by Christoph FischerOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth StroutWater for Elephants by Sara GruenThe Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Protagonists Over 60
1st out of 117 books — 28 voters
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest HemingwayTime To Let Go by Christoph FischerA Christmas Carol by Charles DickensThe Tempest by William ShakespeareThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Books About Old People
54th out of 281 books — 101 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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
Lynne Spreen
I first read Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan a couple years ago. I had heard the author being interviewed on NPR and was fascinated by the idea of a novel about a woman who is in the very latter 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 got the idea of starting a Facebook page with that name ( My goal was to gather story recommendations, and someone suggested Emily, Alone,
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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.
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
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
west of sunset by stewart o'nan 2 5 Nov 10, 2014 05:35PM  
  • The Coffins of Little Hope
  • The Watery Part of the World
  • The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
  • Broken Irish
  • Three Weeks in December
  • Remember Ben Clayton
  • Evening Is the Whole Day
  • Last Night at the Ritz
  • When the Killing's Done
  • The Year We Left Home
  • How It All Began
  • Kings of the Earth
  • On Canaan's Side
  • Northwest Corner
  • The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady
  • An Available Man
  • The Astral
  • A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion
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

Share This Book

“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
“It was the ultimate cautionary tale, the moral being Don't fall, as if they were made of glass. In a sense they were--their fragility was irrefutable, medically proven--and yet Emily detested the inevitable rundown of accidents and tragedies, the more fortunate clucking their tongues and counting their blessings, all the while knowing it was just a matter of time. She didn't need to be reminded that she was a single misstep from disaster, especially here, without Henry, surrounded by the survivors of an earlier life.” 4 likes
More quotes…