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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  86,789 ratings  ·  5,803 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 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  86,789 ratings  ·  5,803 reviews


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Trevor
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
Jenn(ifer)
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the tin man
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: thank you, whoever you are

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
...more
Lisa
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 life was intro
...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
ROCK AND ROLL

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
...more
Arah-Lynda
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 wor
...more
Brina
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
Lawyer
Dec 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every one should read this book
Recommended to Lawyer by: O.B. Emerson, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, The University of Alabama
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 FebMasks
...more
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.
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
...more
Richard
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-lit-us
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. ...more
Steve
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
Traveller
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing

*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
...more
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!
Samadrita
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
...more
Fionnuala
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 words describe her in
...more
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 f
...more
Robin
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 chara
...more
Dolors
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who speak and have no time to listen
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 i
...more
Garima
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 h
...more
Ted
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ted by: Garima
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 …
...more
Duane
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. 1
...more
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 accep
...more
Diane
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
This debut novel from Carson McCullers blew me away. She was 23 — only 23!! — when it was published in 1940, and her book is incredibly gorgeous and moving.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter follows a deaf man, John Singer, in a Georgia mill town in the 1930s. Singer is lonely after his one good friend, Spiros, is taken away to a mental hospital. Gradually, other people in the town come to regard Singer as a confidante, and we get involved in the lives of four people: tomboy Mick Kelly, who loves mus/>The
...more
Aubrey
Sing for the South, the Nation, the World Entire, for they know not what they do.

Sing for the man with the matted suit and pearl-rimmed tongue, the rustic know how and the fine edged intellectual gait, the words, the words, always the words. He walks with his heart bound in a lexicon and pinned upon his mouth, and where he walks he sees the terrible secret and cannot keep silent. Long ago he stripped from himself his measure of complacent comfort, and now he wanders in a naked anger,
...more
Cecily
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
...more
Diane Barnes
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reads
John Singer, the deaf/mute. Biff Bannon, the cafe owner. Dr. Copeland, the Negro doctor. Jake Blount, a drifter. And Mick Kelly, a 14 year old girl who hears beautiful music in her head and heart. These are our main players, each of them lonely and looking for someone to talk to, someone who will listen and maybe understand. They all talk incessantly to Mr. Singer, who can't hear them, and rarely understands. Mr. Singer can only talk with his hands, and then only to those who can understand sign ...more
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
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 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
...more
Paul
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-novels
Carson McCullers was only 22/23 when she wrote this; an amazing feat and a truly great novel. The plot centres around John Singer a man who is deaf and mute. Singer initially lives with his friend Spiros Antanopoulos. Their companionship comes to an end when Spiros's mental health deteriorates and he is admitted to an asylum. Singer then takes a room in the Kelly hpusehold. Here a group of people gravitate around him.
Mick Kelly, the daughter of the household has musical aspirations and feels ou
...more
Perry
The Painful Realities of Small Town Southern Life in 1930s

"Southerners are more lonely and estranged. I think because we have lived so long in an artificial social system that we insisted was natural and right and just--when all along we knew it wasn't." Carson McCullers

"I am a lone lorn creatur...and everythink goes contrairy with me." Mrs. Gummidge, David Copperfield.

This veracious Southern Gothic novel, with its common gothic staples of disfigurement, disease, brutality and mortality present in/>"I/>"Southerners
...more
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. They have to."
...more
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1,698 followers
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,
...more
“Next to music, beer was best.” 1439 likes
“Maybe when people longed for a thing that bad the longing made them trust in anything that might give it to them.” 391 likes
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