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Henry, Himself

(Emily Maxwell #0.5)

by
3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,463 ratings  ·  354 reviews
A member of the greatest generation looks back on the loves and losses of his past and comes to treasure the present anew in this poignant and thoughtful new novel from a modern master

Stewart O’Nan is renowned for illuminating the unexpected grace of everyday life and the resilience of ordinary people with humor, intelligence, and compassion. In this prequel to the beloved
...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Penguin
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,463 ratings  ·  354 reviews


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Angela M
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it

If you’re looking for a story that will make your heart beat fast, or if you are looking for action or suspense, this book is probably not for you. What you’ll find here is a wonderful character study of Henry Maxwell who has lived a life so ordinary that it could be so many of our lives. I think that’s what made it so real and relatable, probably more so if you are close in age to Henry. The novel is comprised of short chapters, events in Henry’s life from his present as a man in his seventies,
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Diane S ☔
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019
3.5 My goodness Henry, you quietly but steadily worked your way into my heart. Granted, it wasn't love at first read, but you got there in the end. I know now that you are in your middles seventies and retired, you sometimes feel useless, at odds with yourself. Questioning whether you lived your life to the fullest, made the most of what you had. You do though, have time now to putter, and that is something you enjoy. I for one consider the love you have for your wife to be inspiring. I was so i ...more
JanB
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Simply said and simply beautiful. With spare prose, this lovely book has much to say about the ordinary. I’m a huge fan of the author and Emily, Alone was a favorite when I read it back in 2012. No one can write about the ordinary in such an extraordinary way as Stewart O’Nan.

This is the prequel to Emily, Alone. Henry is 75, and married to Emily. I was touched at the quiet, deep love he still has for his wife.

As Henry and Emily go about the rhythm of their days and the seasons, we ar
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*TUDOR^QUEEN*
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

Thank you to Viking / Penguin Publishing Group who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.

This is a quiet, plodding account of a retired 75 year old Pittsburgh native. During his life Henry Maxwell's been an altar boy, military veteran, engineer, husband, father and grandfather. Though retired, Henry fills up his day with seemingly endless household projects (he's very handy), volunteering at church, shopping, walking the dog, playing golf, and enjoying the occasional adult bever
...more
Darlene
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Stewart O'Nan's novels, 'Wish You Were Here' and 'Emily, Alone', readers were introduced to the Maxwell family; that is, the Maxwell family minus one member.... the patriarch, Henry, who had recently passed away. In his new novel, 'Henry, Himself', Stewart O'Nan moves backward in time to the last years of the 20th century. Henry was alive and anticipating his 75th birthday and also his 49th wedding anniversary with his wife, Emily. In 'Wish You Were Here' and 'Emily, Alone', although the emph ...more
Marialyce
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
For Henry Maxwell, time has passed and now into his seventy-fifth year, he reflects back on the life he has lead. He finds himself thinking about what he was and is, a husband to Emily, a father Margaret and Kenny, and a grandfather, and as he looks to his life, a life filled with traditions, he wonders has he been a good man, a good husband, a good father? As in any family, there has been trials. His daughter Margaret is a recovering addict addicted to drugs and alcohol facing a marria
...more
Toni
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs-2019
I didn’t get it at first, the charm of this quiet novel about an aging man. It started to sink in about a quarter of the way that this ordinary man, Henry Maxwell was an American hero. Of course, not the kind that receives a “Ticker Tape Parade” up Broadway in New York City. (Yes, they’re still done, using confetti. Last one was in 2015.)

Henry represents the sort of man that was often called the backbone of this country. He fought in WWII, came home, got married and earned his degree on the GI
...more
Diane Barnes
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This is on the good side of 3 stars. A library book that was due in a few days, I started this right after finishing a book that used a lot of my psychic energy, so it was perfect in that there was little plot and excitement to tax my brain.
It's a year in the life of an ordinary man, 75 year old Henry Maxwell. He tried to be a good husband to his prickly wife Emily, a good father to his two children, a doting grandfather, good neighbor, active in his church, enjoyed puttering around his house,
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Scott
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
" . . . Henry kept his opinion to himself. It was all speculation anyway. People were going to do what they were going to do. After a certain age he'd ceased to believe he might influence their lives." -- inner thoughts of title character Henry Maxwell, page 331

Henry, Himself is an extremely low-key and agreeable type of novel, at first a seemingly aimless story chronicling the calendar year 1998 of septuagenarian Henry Maxwell. Henry is from the 'Greatest Generation' - a Pittsburgh native (with
...more
Paul
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An achingly beautiful, warm, and melancholy pastoral/year-in-the-life of 75 year-old Henry who is approaching the end, though not quite there. The genius of O'Nan is that the ordinary is honored and celebrated without it ever being presented as it being more than it is.
Chrissie
Please keep in mind that a two-star rating means that the book is in fact OK, but no it does not excite me.

I wanted to try a book of fiction by the author. This explains why I picked it up.

What is the author trying to say? I think the answer can be drawn from this line near the end of the book:

“The famous don’t need to be remembered again.”

Emily, the wife of the eponymous Henry, states this in reference to a celebratory New Year’s article in the newspaper.

The book is a tribute to the many ordin
...more
Diane Yannick
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is my first Stewart O’Nan book. I have no idea why. I fell in love with Henry and his everyday life. I wanted to share his journey, each step of the way. The author deftly lays out Henry’s life without pretense and no hammered home homilies about growing old. It’s just a man living, reflecting a bit, but mostly just doing the next thing. Any bit of drama is created by extended family interactions. So don’t go looking for big, life changing plot turns. Just appreciate the grace and predictab ...more
Faith
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, overdrive
A collection of vignettes from a year in the life of a 75 year old man and his family. The glimpses are very realistic, but it’s like listening to your neighbor describe his boring day - new tires, mousetraps, dog poop, Christmas decorations, leaky pipes, creaky joints. Don’t read this with the expectation that anything will happen in this book.
Alecia
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love reading Stewart O'Nan and I loved this book. This is a prequel to Emily, Alone, and Wish You Were Here, all three about the Maxwell family. Henry, Himself takes place during a brief timeframe of Henry Maxwell's life. He is going to turn 75, and he is acutely aware of his own mortality. The book is constructed with very short chapters, and nothing much happens...just life. This is how I remembered Emily, Alone was, and both books deliver a powerful punch in a very gently, wry way.

The writi
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Mary Lins
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
Oh, how I adore Stewart O’Nan! His novels (and his non-fiction) are all so varied, so different, so unique, and yet all so good! Having loved “Emily, Alone”, I was primed to love “Henry, Himself”, and I certainly did! Henry reminded me very much of my own late father; also a WWII vet, married over 50 years, husband, father, grandfather, church-goer, good citizen. I wonder what secrets he never revealed.

In his inimitably beautiful prose, O’Nan, takes us through the life of Henry Maxwell, from hi
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Sue
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’d like to have Henry Maxwell as a next door neighbor. He cuts the grass, keeps his dog in tow, and behaves with civility. Henry, Himself is a meditation on the ordinary, a paean to an honorable man. At 75, Henry’s interior life is active and reflective. The author takes us inside.

When you’ve been reading hard-hitting politics or social criticism or perhaps violent medieval fantasy, this book is an antidote.

Henry adores his wife, Emily. Once she was gone for a few days, caring for a recuperati
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Les
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Emily, Alone (which I absolutely loved) tells the story of Emily Maxwell after the death of her husband, Henry. Now O'Nan turns back the clock and gives us this remarkable prequel, showing us Henry's point-of-view as a husband and a father. This character-driven novel is comprised of short chapters (or vignettes), which share the details of everyday life ranging from concerns and worries for adult children (and grandchildren) to mundane chores such as tending a lawn, making an ATM bank deposit o ...more
Holly R W
I enjoyed the time I spent with Henry this past week and my bird's eye view into his life. Henry Maxwell is 75 years old, married to his wife Emily whom he adores, and is a father to children he does not always understand. For some readers, the book might be boring, as there is not much drama going on. For me, the book matched my mood and need for calm in our stressful world.

I understood Henry perfectly, as he is a combination of some men I know well. A retired engineer, he enjoys repairing and
...more
Sheri
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love his books!!! As one critic put it, O’Nan makes the ebb and flow of ordinary life come alive on paper. Henry is a patient wonderfully sweet man. His wife, Emily, can fret about things and run ahead with a million things on her mind to do, but Henry paces himself, and always pleases her. He keeps his troubling thoughts to himself so as not to alarm her. He’s steady and true. I loved reading this book. Their anniversaries, vacations at Chautauqua, shopping trips, walks with Rufus...all of it ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stewart O'Nan is one of those writers that is easy to overlook. His books aren't about big things---no cars crashing, no bombs exploding. O'Nan looks closely at everyday life. Henry, Himself is probably not a book some people would enjoy at all. It's simply the story of the day-to-day existence of an elderly man and his elderly life, his reminisces, his regrets, the small delights and frictions Henry faces.
Moonkiszt
Jun 10, 2020 marked it as done-not-finishing
Got 100 pages in, and just a list of Henry's activities and observations. Didn't catch me or even try to. As a reader I might as well have been a research monitor. I like cranky characters, but he wasn't even really that. . . .

I might try again in future. But, time is short and I've only got so many reads left. . . .ya know?
Eileen
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A treasure! This series of vignettes really resonated with me! I learned that it is part of a series, and realized that I had actually read an earlier one in this group, Emily Alone. That was years ago, and I was not enthused, although the books appear to be similar, and Stewart O’Nan’s writing sings. Perhaps because age wise I’m in Henry’s bracket now, so much rang true. The book is a delightful mix of ruminations and memories and regrets. Parts brought tears to my eyes I laughed so hard!
How we
...more
Sterlingcindysu
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Edited 12/22/19, one of my top 10 for 2019

As another reviewer wrote, you should really be over 50 when you read this...you'll enjoy it more. And I wish I was discovering O'Nan now and could read all three of these books in sequence. But to be honest, I read Emily, Alone six years ago and much of it came back to me. (The one complaint I had with that book is also true here, it just ends.)

So Henry is 75 and retired, and O'Nan covers a year of his life in excruciating detail. He doesn't go into me
...more
Diane
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A prequel to Wish You were Here (2007) and Emily Alone (2010), Henry, Himself is a pictorial look at the life of an everyman: Henry Maxwell.

Set in 1998, Henry Maxwell is approaching 75 and 50 years of marriage, just who is Henry Maxwell? Husband to Emily, father to Margaret and Kenny and a grandfather as well, once an alter boy, military man (WWII) and engineer for Westinghouse thanks to a college degree earned through the GI bill. Once his days were filled with busyness and now it's just Emily
...more
Mayda
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In this prequel to Emily Alone, readers learn about Henry, now in his 75th year. We hear a bit about his past, more about his day-to-day existence, and a glimpse as to what he perceives as his future. Henry’s life hasn’t been perfect. He served during the war and saw his friends killed. His daughter was a handful during her growing up years, and still struggles with addiction. His knees are creaky, his hands are tingly, and his memory faulty at times. He can’t do the things he used to do, and mu ...more
Kem White
I wanted to like "Henry, Himself" and based on its description I should have. But the book itself is a lengthy exercise in monotony and tedium. I found this book to be a chore to read. Every aspect of Henry's everyday life is described in relentless detail during a one year span in the 1990s. There is almost no tension in this book. But you'll thrill as you read about the intricate details of a family game of Putt-Putt. Your heart will race as you read about the near shortfall of candy on Hallow ...more
Carrie Eisenhandler
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book about the every day life of an older married couple. Nothing much happens and that is the beautiy of this book. The main character is an older man facing mortality as he sees friends and colleagues dying and as he sees changes in himself. He reflects on times in his twenties and his life raising children and mistakes that were made - but mostly the story is just about the every day life of getting up, doing household choirs and getting through each day. What I loved most about the story w ...more
Susan
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having lived in Pittsburgh all of my life, I enjoyed the city references and familiarity of this book. Although I liked both of the books in this series better, I enjoyed this one as well. It’s rare to find a book that deals with aging in such an honest way, especially with a male main character. The reality of loss of purpose and independence as we age were very realistic. And the over looming reality that time is finite is relevant at any age. I love O’Nan’s writing, he really allows you to ge ...more
Kathleen Gray
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Talk about a prequel! O'Nan has opted to finally tell Henry's story, after telling the story of his widow Emily in two other novels. The Maxwells are well known to readers of O'Nan but if you haven't read him, this is a fine place to start. Henry is looking back over his life and his family- nothing much happens and honestly there isn't even much rumination. This is, however, a gentle read that fans will enjoy. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.
Cherise Wolas
No crazy plot twists, no sudden reveals, not a thriller or a mystery, but a heartfelt novel about an ordinary retired man, his wife Emily, and their family, living their ordinary lives. O'Nan has a wonderful way of turning the ordinary extraordinary. Lovely. This is his third novel about the Maxwell family. I'd actually suggest reading the trio in this order: Henry, Himself, Emily, Alone, and Wish You Were Here.
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Stewart O'Nan is the author of eleven novels, including Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying, a story collection, and two works of nonfiction. His previous novel, Last Night at the Lobster, was a national bestseller, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was named one of the New York Public Library Books to Remember. Additionally, Granta named him one of the 20 Best Young Ameri ...more

Other books in the series

Emily Maxwell (3 books)
  • Wish You Were Here
  • Emily, Alone (Emily Maxwell, #2)

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