Sue's Reviews > Emily, Alone

Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan
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's review
Aug 05, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2012

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 counted out in small details, the stuff of life really. The slow and gentle rhythms occasionally suffer some moment of disquiet. She worries about her adult children, one a daughter in recovery and the other a sensitive son dominated by a cold wife. Her teen-aged grandchildren are a mystery. She works hard to plan family visits and finds them ultimately unsettling. Yet winter and spring pass, and Emily still has energy and looks forward to her annual summer visit to Chautauqua.

This thoughtful inquiry into the life of Emily should inspire new respect for the ubiquitous older woman. (Look around! There are so many! They are not invisible!) She is puzzled by changes but anchored by history.
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