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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  103,003 ratings  ·  7,393 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, 359 pages
Published September 8th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1940)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  103,003 ratings  ·  7,393 reviews

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Jun 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
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

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
The heart is a lonely hunter and it can break in many different ways.

Mine broke several times while reading this stunning document of American life. What a rich and multifaceted story, and what a perfect complement to other giants of American storytelling of that era.

Just in the beginning, I saw traces of Steinbeck, most notably of his Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, in the small town talk and the slightly comical marital scenes. But the tone quickly grew darker, and when African American li
Paul Bryant
Sep 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels

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
I simply cannot get this book out of my head.    Like most everyone else I am astounded that Carson McCullers was only 23 years old when she wrote this.  Such wisdom and insight from someone so young is truly remarkable.  

And there are so many great reviews out there, I just could not stop reading them.  A great many of them, as one might expect discuss the greater themes of this book and there can be no doubt that I too fell to pondering these many  things as I thought about the world today.

I m
4+ stars
‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers is a truly extraordinary novel. I found McCullers prose very simple and straightforward without the lyrical flourishes that I so love, however for depth of insight into the human psyche, the writing is a treasure trove. Throughout the book, I was reminded of the psychological defense mechanism of projection. You know how sometimes the things you literally hate about another person are those little parts of your own personality that you’v
Duffy Pratt
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classic
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
What a terribly sad book, and yet, so insightful about loneliness, despair and alienation that it’s impossible not to love it, somehow.

In a small town in Georgia during WWII, four very different people find solace in talking to Mr. Singer, a deaf and mute man who eats at the New York Café every day. The café’s owner, a young tomboyish girl, an alcoholic communist and a black doctor desperate to affect change, are, each in their own way, all alone in the world. They operate at a slightly differen
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCuller's Portrait of the Faces Behind the Masks

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was chosen as a group read by On The Southern Literary Trail for January, 2017. This is the third time McCuller's novel has been selected as a group read by "The Trail," making it the most read novel by members of the group which was founded in February, 2012.

Thanks to a former goodreads friend, I've learned I am only gently mad. It was a relief to discover that. Because my self-ana
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Each year I attempt to participate in classics bingo in the group catching up on classics. This year, so far, so good. I gave a lot of thought as to which classic book I wanted to use for my classic of North America square. There are a few authors that come to mind as classic American authors, where each piece of literature written by them reads like a story being told on one's front porch. The names Hemingway and Steinbeck first come to my mind, along with that of Carson McCullers. Distinctly s ...more
Samra Yusuf
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fav
And here we are in the world full of probabilities, reasoning with the unreasoned existence, awestruck at the purposelessness of life, at actions with no consequences, at endings with no more re-beginnings, once we die, we die. Alone is our planet and so are we, some of us are more alone than the rest though, some of us choose to be so, for some it’s the only option. And it is the tale of chosen and of those who chose!
A tale of love and of whom who seek love, of abandoned and espoused, of isolat
Richard Derus
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Elyse Walters
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago -before being a member on Goodreads. (Just forgot to post any comments)--Thanks to 'Steve' for the inspiration of memory!

"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" one of those books that leaves a lasting tattoo on your heart forever!

Not only does it take place during the Great Depression -during times of racial injustice --
not only do we 'see-feel-touch-experience' loneliness through a character so profound deeper than most have ever been written--
--but it was 'THIS' novel where I l
*10 out of 5 lonely, burning stars, light years apart, yet winking together in a shared cosmos.

This is not a love-story! Not in the romantic sense, in any case. Somehow the title had always made me think it was a soppy love story about unrequited romantic love.
There is love in the novel, but for the most part not of the romantic kind.
Rather, it is a cry into the existential darkness that surrounds humankind, and in many respects it is a deeply political, even philosophical novel, which reminded
Richard (on hiatus)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is the debut novel by Carson McCullers, written when she was just 23.
This classic American novel, set in 1930’s Georgia, sees a disparate group of characters make their solitary way amid the teeming life of an unnamed mill town. A world of ten cent stores, crumbling tenements, gin soaked alleys, raucous fair grounds and cheap neighbourhood boarding houses.
This is a tale of the lonely, the dispossessed and those, who for various reasons feel like outsiders.
The main p
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Loneliness and isolation have been bottled up and painted onto the page here, in Carson McCullers' debut (and now classic) novel set in 1930s small town Georgia. Poverty, segregation, disease, and struggle are all themes in this southern gothic beauty, but it is loneliness that reigns supreme here, a truly desperate need to connect, and an ache-inducing inability to do just that.

John Singer, a deaf-mute who reads lips, is the central figure of this book. He is a magnet that the four main charact
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
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, us
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, 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 but is frustrated and angry that his own efforts toward that end have bee ...more
Steven Godin
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Storytelling of the highest order, characters that pull at the heart strings, and a moment of intense sadness that really hits you, McCullers has a written a novel I will never forget. the sympathy I felt for poor old Mr Singer was off the scale, a sweet and caring gentleman but who is also fragile minded, has a yearning for those close to him including the tom-boyish Mick who is trying to grow up too fast and wonders what the future will hold for her. Tingled with a sadness and longing that lea ...more
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recs, 2019
Eerie and harrowing, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter thoughtfully reflects on what it means for the most marginalized of society to endure lives void of the possibility of change, love, or hope. Set in a Georgia mill town at the height of the Great Depression, the novel consists of a series of moving character studies; forsaking plot McCullers fully renders the rich inner lives of a small cast of misfits who fret about the future and share a common fascination with a Christlike deaf-mute man in the ...more
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
da AL
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hell, the title alone is marvelous!!! Great reader. A wonder of a book from an essentially child genius lesbian author that delves into so many issues as integral to when it was written as to now. Among them; how one person's struggle influences everyone around them for generations and how life can be beautiful in its struggle. This is one of a handful of books (ie books of Truman Capote & David Sedaris) that make me wish I phrased things as beautifully as southerners can! ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 in
Michael Finocchiaro
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a story of heartbreaking solitude and the brutal clash between dreams and reality. Biff in his New York Café, Mr. Singer in his muteness, Mick in her Inside Room, and Dr. Copeland in his sickness are all joined together by a longing, unrealized, to surpass their circumstances.
In Biff's words, "Why? Because in some men it is in them to give up everything personal at some time, before it ferments and poisons - throw it to some human being or some human idea. The
I've been reading Carson McCullers for the last month. I started with this book and then picked up each of her five other books one after the other, leaving myself no time in between to think about what I've read or consider writing a review. Today, I'm glad that I didn't attempt a review of this one because I just came across a piece in the sixth book, The Mortgaged Heart: Selected Writings, entitled Author's Outline of 'The Mute' (later published as 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter').

Her own wor
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 …
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
Jr Bacdayan
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I am not meant to be alone and without you who understands.”

The great burden of humanity lies in our need to be understood. Each human is a vessel of thoughts and emotions simply waiting to be poured forth to other vessels willing to reciprocate, each relationship a barter, an exchange of ideas and feelings, and so there remains in us a shred of influence from every person, idea, experience we encounter. Our lives a shared reality in ways we may not comprehend, a concoction of all impressions a
I have read 8 of Carson McCullers books, and like the rest of the world I agree that this is her best work. It sets a tone that I found prevailing in almost all of her books, a sad and melancholy outlook on life, and being a young and impressionable eccentric in 1940's small town Georgia, I can understand that. This is her masterpiece. It was made into a 1968 movie starring Alan Arkin and it is firmly placed in the list of best American novels.
4.5 stars

Side note: Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, will mark
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Carson McCullers was an American who 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 McCullers. They began their married life in Charlotte,

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