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The Lone Pilgrim

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  554 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
This collection of stories about love and privacy is serious , funny, tender, and alive with the elegance and spirit that characterize Laurie Colwin's work. In these stories, the reader moves among young men and women: pianists, historians, book illustrators, architects; women who are composed and inimitably sassy; and men who are magnetic, adventurous in love, or fiendish ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 9th 2001 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1981)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
As soon as I finished this collection I wanted to go right back to the beginning and read it all over again. So I did. That's about the best endorsement I can think of for any book. Every one of the stories has something to offer in terms of humor and understated insight into human relationships. If you've ever known any potheads, you absolutely must read "The Achieve of, the Mastery of the Thing." It's the most perfect representation you'll ever find of the happy, harmless, dedicated dope smoke ...more
Katie H.
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've been depressed since Laurie Colwin died tragically young. I discovered her when I came across Goodbye Without Leaving in an airport God knows where and from then on I couldn't get enough of her work. There's something about her voice. Hard to define but she writes about what it's like to be single and it felt more than familiar.

Laurie gave shape to the ordinary, to people you might glance at in passing but whose lives have tremendous meaning and challenges you will never be aware of. Readi
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Laurie Colwin was one of my early sources of information about how the adult world worked. As soon as you pick up one of her books it's obvious that she's someone who knows things. I started reading her books about the same time she started writing them and I read everything she wrote. Re-reading The Lone Pilgrim recently was bittersweet. It reminded me of how simply and perfectly she wrote and it made me sad all over again that she died early. She'd be the perfect person to help me make sense o ...more
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"Once upon a time, I was Professor Thorne Speizer's stoned wife..." Another classic first line, from one of the stories in Laurie Colwin's little jewelbox of short stories. About young people beginning to live on their own, I read it and loved it when I was young myself. Funny and sweet without being saccharine.
Oct 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent collection of short stories on a common theme: intelligent people navigating adult relationships and responsibilities. Sounds mundane, but Colwin has a gift of nailing external and internal dialogue.

My favorite of the bunch is "Saint Anthony of the Desert."
The opening line: "Haphazardness, as a condition of life, has its usefulness but is of fixed duration."

"My education was as hapless as my finances. As I conducted it, it suited me for nothing. I had been a cheerful student with a s
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american
It must take real skill to write a collection of love stories which (mostly) end happily and for them not to be overly sentimental or cloying, but Laurie Colwin makes it look effortless in these astute, intelligent and exquisitely written tales. Despite the 1970s New York and Boston settings, Colwin has (as I think has been noted before) much in common with Jane Austen, including her generosity of spirit and her wit, though Austen of course never wrote any hilarious stories about potheads! Anywa ...more
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people dealing with relationships
Typically, I don't like books of short stories. I did enjoy The Lone Pilgrim though, perhaps because the stories had several common themes, ie: New York City, falling in love, Love, Academic environments, which created a thread of similarity between the variety of characters and situations in the different stories. I'm not sure why the book is called the Lone Pilgrim for in all the stories the main character(s) end up in some kind of relationship and thus are not really alone. That being said th ...more
Terri Jacobson
May 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories that were written in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some of the references are dated and kind of fun to read--references to pay phones, smoking in offices and public places, slide rules. The stories are witty and well-written, and the characters are memorable. My favorite stories were "A Mythological Study" and "Saint Anthony and the Desert". I debated between 3 and 4 stars for this book and in actuality I would have liked to give it 3 1/2 stars ...more
Feb 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have no idea how I missed this wonderful book of stories by an author whom I adore. In fact, I missed all three of her books of stories. The other two are on their way to me in the mail. I am sure I will devour them just as I devoured this one!

Colwin takes ordinary people and turns their stories into such interesting pieces. Her stories are all complete, and left me satisfied, the mark of a good short story writer.

Dec 24, 2012 rated it liked it
" 'I came over here to claim you, if that's possible.' When I looked at him, I realized that I had never wanted anyone so much in my life, so I claimed him, too." pg 96

Laurie Colwin just gives everyone who reads her work unrealistic expectations about love, and yet I can't help but acknowledge it is still something lovely and worth looking for.
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
These are beautifully written short stories, though mostly lacking in plot - most of them are languid character sketches of intelligent New England women giving themselves permission to fall in love. You can imagine the reality show equivalent would be the opposite of "Real Housewives" - how about "Lifestyles of the Bored and Brilliant"? I'm gonna pitch that!
Apr 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I couldn't get used to the fact that these were relatively happy stories. Colwin mainly works with telling and not showing, but when she puts in details they are very good. Because of this, the story that I'll probably remember the most is the one about the pothead wife of a professor, because it had the most dialogue.
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"The Achieve of, the Mastery of the Thing", is the best stoner housewife, faculty spouse short story ever.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Luminously written, with wisdom and humor coming from every page, often in lovely turn of phrase. Not every story hit me so perfectly but most were like little gems you could hold up to the light, that sparkle with different colors as you look from a slightly different angle. A couple of favorite lines, though there were so many:

"We domestic sensualists live in a state of longing, no matter how comfortable our own places are." (Predating and predicting the era of Nancy Meyers-style movies, IMO.)
Apr 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Nice, compact collection of short stories circulating around a common theme of love, relationships and affairs. Although less plot-driven, in the expected Colwin style we are indulged with character descriptions, details (the food imagery is wonderful) and points of view about young people beginning to live their own lives. My favourites from this collection are 'Saint Anthony of the Desert', 'Travel' and 'Sentimental Memory' are pleasing, and 'Delia's Father' about crossing the side from childh ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this a while ago, and have rather forgotten everything about it. These short stories are all about romantic love in various forms, and I remember it being a very relaxing read and well executed.
girl writing
Dec 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Hard for me to rate this one. I really like the author's writing so I read this but I've never gotten into short stories and this volume didn't change that for me even though the writing was good.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A pleasant collection of love stories.
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while I read a book and think: "How have I never read this author?!" Laurie Colwin is one such author. Just as when I read Edith Pearlman's Binocular Vision, when I read the Lone Pilgrim, I instantly knew I was in the hands of a master, and just sat back and marveled at what she wrote. Every story is a love story, a heterosexual love story, often between people of the upper-class, and so these were not stories that screamed out to me as relate-able, but I loved every single one o ...more
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Boy do I miss Laurie Colwin...her gentle perspective and tolerance of her characters' flaws make this a most endearing story collection.
Nov 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm beginning to think I need to revise my "I hate short stories" position to an "I hate bad short stories, but I kind of like them if they're actually good. It's just that there are so many bad short stories, and Chekhov actually writes novellas. Boring novellas, but still."

These stories are actually short, which gives them a leg up on Chekhov. They're quickly paced/subduedly energetic in the way I'm beginning to expect all Laurie Colwin to be, and that's definitely more than acceptable. Nearly
Jun 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Normally I get annoyed with books that focus too heavily on romantic relationships, especially (and I realize it makes me sound like an uncultivated brute to admit this) when they're written by women and from the perspective of women. So here is a collection of short stories, each with a female protagonist and every last one of which is a sort of meditation on love. But Colwin, whose writing I'd never read before, kept me hooked through 13 stories (hardly a clunker in the bunch) that are filled ...more
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
All of Colwin's books, several each of short stories and novels, are wonderful and I can't recommend them highly enough. I actually bought many of her books in hardcover, something rare for me! They are all about life and love in Manhattan. She has been described as having "very acute sensibilities," whatever those are and has also been compared to Jane Austen. Her first novel is Happy All the Time, which is about two couples who are related and are friends. My favorite book of short stories is ...more
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Laurie Colwin is such a fantastic writer. I wish everyone read her books. In this short story collection she manages to do so much in twenty pages. We see people falling in love with each other, falling out of love with each other, discovering their true selves, and even declaring their passionate love for pot. The best part about her writing is that every character feels so real and relatable. I don't know how she does it but there are rarely villains and there is rarely a ton of action and yet ...more
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Laurie Colwin writes in an intimate personal manner; you feel you have an insight into her personality through her treatment of her characters. She is a connoisseur of life and people, in all their variations, and even when faced with less than likable traits, there is an acceptance. Life is nuanced and wouldn’t be nearly so interesting if we were all perfect angels.
I first read many of these stories in The New Yorker during my college years and the deceptively simple ease of her writing made me
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the charmingly eccentric
Recommended to Kate by: Best American Short Stories, some years back
Shelves: short-stories
"Man's spatial relationship to the horse is one of the most confusing and deceptive in the world," I heard myself say. "You are either sitting on top of one, or standing underneath one, and therefore it is impossible to gauge in any meaningful way exactly how big a horse is in relationship to you. This is not," I added with fierce emphasis, "like a man inside a cathedral."

I then shut up. There was a long silence. I meditated on what I had said which was certainly the most interesting thing anyon
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed these stories about love and relationships. Especially, "Saint Anthony of the Desert" which is a gem. This girl who is wondering through life falls in love with some who seems to have life all figured out and by the end we realize things aren't as they seem. Writing is excellent, from the opening lines "Haphazardness, as a condition of life, has usefulness but is of fixed duration." If only I could craft a sentence half as expressive.
Jul 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
I first heard one of Colwin's stories read on NPR's Selected Shorts. It was warm and funny and managed to make characters that I only knew for 30 pages seem real. This collection is filled with such stories. Colwin also wrote for Gourmet (see my entry for Home Cooking). Although she died in 1994 at a fairly young age, she wrote several more short story collections and novels as well as another food collection - all of which I look forward to reading.
Courtney Hamilton
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: yes
A heart-breaking, beautiful and astonishing collection of short stories. "Delia's Father" contains one of the most beautiful descriptions of childhood that I have ever read: "Children are a tribe, and childhood is their home. One false move and the tribe runs off without you, never to be found again." I miss Laurie Colwin and am very sad that we will never be able look forward to more of her beautiful work. ,
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500 Great Books B...: The Lone Pilgrim and Other Stories - Laurie Colwin 1 5 Jul 27, 2014 03:59PM  
  • The Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers Workshop - 43 Stories, Recollections, & Essays on Iowa's Place in Twentieth-Century American Literature
  • Prizes: The Selected Stories
  • Through the Safety Net: Stories
  • Sweet Talk
  • Damn Love
  • The Nightingales of Troy: Stories of One Family's Century
  • The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue
  • Collected Stories
  • In the Land of Dreamy Dreams
  • The Collected Stories
  • Other Kinds
  • Hiding Out
  • Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine
  • Asleep in the Sun
  • Lucky Girls
  • Chase Us: Stories
  • In the Land of Men: Stories
  • Famous Fathers and Other Stories
Laurie Colwin is the author of five novels: Happy All the Time, Family Happiness, Goodbye Without Leaving, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object, and A Big Storm Knocked It Over; three collections of short stories: Passion and Affect, Another Marvelous Thing, and The Lone Pilgrim; and two collections of essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She died in 1992.
More about Laurie Colwin

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“Fulfillment leaves an empty space where longing used to be.” 8 likes
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