Jenn(ifer)'s Reviews > The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
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Jul 02, 12

bookshelves: own, summer-of-women-2012, read-in-2012, you-should-read-this, the-tops, xx, my-reviews-that-dont-suck
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: thank you, whoever you are
Recommended for: the tin man
Read from June 14 to 23, 2012


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 such darkness, such tragedy? Like Flannery O'Connor, she suffered from illness from a young age. Maybe that is where her darkness came from?

As you can probably glean from the title, all of the characters in this novel are haunted by the ghost of loneliness. Mick is a young girl on the brink of womanhood. Like many teenage girls, she feels isolated and misunderstood, but finds solace in two things: the company of a deaf mute boarder in her family home and her true passion, music. Let me share a passage with you describing Mick's experience of hearing Beethoven's 3rd symphony for the first time:

How did it come? For a minute the opening balanced from one side to the other. Like a walk or a march. Like God strutting in the night. The outside of her was suddenly froze and only that first part of the music was hot inside her heart. She could not even hear what sounded after, but she sat there waiting and froze, with her fists tight. After awhile the music came again, harder and loud. It didn't have anything to do with God. This was her, Mick Kelly, walking in the daytime and by herself at night. In the hot sun and in the dark with all her plans and feelings.This music was her - the real plain her.

I can't emphasize enough how much that passage resonated with me.

The theme of loneliness, of isolation carries through each of the characters we meet as McCullers weaves her magical tale. John Singer is a deaf mute who has only one person in the world he calls a friend; a fellow deaf mute. When his friend goes mad and is institutionalized, Singer no longer has his best friend by his side, he feels lost. Yet all of the folks in this small town are drawn to him. It's as if his deafness gives him a wisdom and understanding that others are sorely missing. Ironically, it's as if for the first time in their lives they feel the are being truly heard. Dr. Copeland is a black physician in the south. He feels isolated from his family because they don't want to follow in his footsteps; his ambition has driven away his wife and children. He feels isolated because he's a black man in a predominately white town. The only white person he feels he can trust is Mr. Singer. Jake Blount is a drunk and a drifter. His rage and inability to relate to others exacerbates his feelings of loneliness. Yet the presence of Mr. Singer soothes him. Biff Brannon is a cafe owner; people come in and out of his restaurant all day, yet he is alone. He and his wife have drifted apart even though they live in the same home; he has no children and no real friends, except for Mr. Singer.

As I made my way through this journey, I hoped and hoped that things would turn out alright for these broken individuals. But things don't always turn out okay, and what you're left with is the harsh reality of life. We all experience tragedy. We are, all of us, lonely hunters.
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Comments (showing 1-44 of 44) (44 new)

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Stephen M Woooooo! Yay! I hope you love it.


Jenn(ifer) I like your enthusiasm!


Jenn(ifer) Joshua Nomen-Mutatio wrote: "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R-Ikf..."

top comment "uh, I'm pretty sure my soul just had an orgasm." this reminds me of something that belongs on the Twin Peaks soundtrack


Stephen M Great review. I'm glad you liked it.


message 6: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich GREAT review. I need to get around to finishing this, yours and Stephen M's reviews are ensuring that will happen soon. The opening with the mutes was heartbreaking enough, and your telling me it gets sadder?! ha, I'm in.


Jenn(ifer) thanks guys


Jenn(ifer) s.penkevich wrote: "GREAT review. I need to get around to finishing this, yours and Stephen M's reviews are ensuring that will happen soon. The opening with the mutes was heartbreaking enough, and your telling me it g..."

Just when you think she can't cut you any deeper, you find out how sadistic she really is. I can only think of three books that made me cry, this here was one of 'em.


message 9: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason I need to read this one soon...


message 10: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark This is a beautiful review! The passage about the power of music, I can picture you totally mesmerized while reading it. Can't believe she was only 23!!


Steve Nicely done, Jenn. You're on a real roll with books you've ended up loving. Good deal! You make it sound very intriguing.


B0nnie Hey Jenn...you are like...a man...who had served a term in prison or had been to Harvard College or had lived for a longtime with foreigners in South America...and writes reviews with the blood of a freshly killed heart...


Jenn(ifer) Steve wrote: "Nicely done, Jenn. You're on a real roll with books you've ended up loving. Good deal! You make it sound very intriguing."

thanks! yes, I've been lucky; the past 3 books I've read have been awesome. So far, Mrs. Dalloway, not so much. But hopefully it'll pickup.


Jenn(ifer) B0nnie wrote: "Hey Jenn...you are like...a man...who had served a term in prison or had been to Harvard College or had lived for a longtime with foreigners in South America...and writes reviews with the blood o..."

Thanks Bonnie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjBzEl...


Jenn(ifer) Mark wrote: "This is a beautiful review! The passage about the power of music, I can picture you totally mesmerized while reading it. Can't believe she was only 23!!"

I know, right? Crazy! thanks mister


message 16: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich 'The blood of a freshly killed heart.'
That is incredibly amazing Bonnie! ha! I like it. You gotta eat that heart for their courage. Their tasty, tasty courage.

Jenn, Dalloway no bueno? I've heard a lot of people (okay, read a lot of people. Markson is making me self-conscious) say that it took a long time to get into it, that it just has to click at some point. Hopefully you start clicking along soon!


Jenn(ifer) s.penkevich wrote: "'The blood of a freshly killed heart.'
That is incredibly amazing Bonnie! ha! I like it. You gotta eat that heart for their courage. Their tasty, tasty courage.

Jenn, Dalloway no bueno? I've hear..."


I'm not going to make any hasty judgments, but I can say that the first 40 pages have been the most boring pages I've read in a long long long time. I'm sure it'll pick up; it can't be this bad, otherwise so many people wouldn't love it like they do, right?


Jenn(ifer) B0nnie wrote: "Hey Jenn...you are like...a man...who had served a term in prison or had been to Harvard College or had lived for a longtime with foreigners in South America...and writes reviews with the blood o..."

prison/college/living with foreigners -- same thing


message 19: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason (Jenn)ifer wrote: "So far, Mrs. Dalloway, not so much. But hopefully it'll pickup."

Stick with it, Jenn, the payoff is huge. I just read Mrs. Dalloway not even two weeks ago.


Jenn(ifer) Jason wrote: "(Jenn)ifer wrote: "So far, Mrs. Dalloway, not so much. But hopefully it'll pickup."

Stick with it, Jenn, the payoff is huge. I just read Mrs. Dalloway not even two weeks ago."


and did you find the beginning boring as HELL?


message 21: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Not exactly. I found it difficult, actually. I don't usually do well with stream of conscious and this was even worse because it was stream of conscious flipping back and forth between characters! But I was interested in the thoughts Clarissa was having of Peter and Sally Seton and I think I picked up on some regret in her marriage to Richard. And I was fascinated with Septimus and his PTSD. Eventually, I acclimated to the prose and ended up loving it in the end. I still think you should stick with it. I think it's remarkable how much Woolf has to say and the way she says it is unique and kind of brilliant.


message 22: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Tried reading the short story version a few years ago and wanted to like it but it just didn't click. Seems like it was only 5-10 pages but my mind wandered as badly as Ms. Dalloway's!


the honeysuckle rose Eee! Great review. Really wanna read this even more now.


the honeysuckle rose Joshua Nomen-Mutatio wrote: "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R-Ikf..."

Duuuuude, this guy is awesome! I saw him play a few years back around a campfire underneath the moonlight on a farm in the beautiful countryside. Some Canadian goodness..

Here's one that I especially like: http://youtu.be/QQ0r4CsLr0g

That whole album is fantastic actually. Highly recommend.

(Eep! sorry to hijack your thread for a moment, Jenn!)


Jenn(ifer) stumbelina wrote: "Joshua Nomen-Mutatio wrote: "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R-Ikf..."

Duuuuude, this guy is awesome! I saw him play a few years back around a campfire underneath the moonlight on a farm in the ..."


Why thankee stumbelina (great name btw). I like these Timber Timbre folks a lot. Needs to get my hands on some. Thanks for zee link!


Jenn(ifer) s.penkevich wrote: "'

Jenn, Dalloway no bueno? "


I'm sorry Mrs. Dalloway! I'm sorry Virginia! I take it all back! I've started over with a fresh set of eyes, and you're not boring at all! Exclamation! Exclamation!


message 27: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Yay!


Traveller Whew, the book sounds bleak! Nice evocative review.


Jenn(ifer) Traveller wrote: "Whew, the book sounds bleak! Nice evocative review."

Thanks!
Yes, it certainly is bleak, but it has a lot of heart. There is absolutely nothing uplifting about it.


Jann Cather Weaver Fabulous review. As a professor, I must say that the word alright is spelled ALL space R I G HT. You would never write all wrong as one word; hence, all right is always two words. Other than that you write exquisitely.


Jenn(ifer) Thank you Jann. And I appreciate the tip. You are all right in my book!


message 32: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Ha! I use 'alright' all the time too :) Just yesterday I came across an article that said it was bad - very, very bad.


message 33: by pronoti (new)

pronoti im going to start reading this one. the bleakness seeping through your review is kindof scaring me though.apart from the feeling of dread thats in the pit of my stomach, it made for a good read:D


message 34: by Mads (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mads Nielsen Thank you for a splendid review on "The heart is a lonely hunter". I have already bought the book, thanks to you. Best regards. Mads


Jenn(ifer) Mads wrote: "Thank you for a splendid review on "The heart is a lonely hunter". I have already bought the book, thanks to you. Best regards. Mads"

Thanks Mads. It's a fantastic little book! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


message 36: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Scotton Jenn,

This has been on my must read list for years. Your review has pushed it to the top of the pile. Great writing--yours not Carson McCullers', although I hear she's pretty good too!


Cecily Lovely review. Have you read any more McCullers? She had the trick of writing with a very distinctive voice, about a particular time and place, but without becoming samey.


Jenn(ifer) Thank you Cecily! No I haven't -- I own a short story collection of hers but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.


Cecily Short stories can be ideal for holidays and travelling!


Dolors Still reeling from that final unexpected blow. This novel totally undid me, Jennifer. Great review.


Jenn(ifer) For a little book, it packs a big punch. Thanks, Dolors!


message 42: by Ted (last edited Dec 08, 2013 11:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted Wow, just looking at some friend's reviews of this (and there are a lot of them) it seems that the amazing book brings out the best in reviews too! And here, not only have I never read it, but it sits on a shelf not twelve feet away from my desk, slipped in between some short stories and another novel in the same book, as if it wants to hide, as if it wants to be alone even though it must live on my shelf squeezed in with these others.


Jenn(ifer) you should remedy that immediately, Ted.


message 44: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted Well I have put it on my "short-list". But that list is about thirty books long. I'm afraid I'm just not the dedicated reader I wish I were, and that so many friends here on GR are - despite most of them having careers, family to bring up, etc - all of which I am past.


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