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Emily, Alone

(Emily Maxwell #2)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  4,566 ratings  ·  931 reviews
Once again making the ordinary and overlooked not merely visible but vital to understanding our own lives, Stewart O'Nan confirms his position as an American master with Emily, Alone.

A sequel to the bestselling, much-beloved Wish You Were Here, O'Nan's intimate novel follows Emily Maxwell, a widow whose grown children have long departed. She dreams of visits from her gran
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published March 17th 2011 by Viking (first published January 1st 2011)
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Melissa yes, if you want chronological order, but both can stand alone

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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  4,566 ratings  ·  931 reviews

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Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2011
Stewart O’Nan may simply be genetically incapable of writing a bad book. His characters are written with precision, intelligence and detail; they’re so luminously alive that a reader can accurately guess about what they’re eating for dinner or what brand toothpaste they use.

In Emily, Alone, Mr. O’Nan revisits Emily, the Maxell family matriarch from a prior book, Wish You Were Alone. Anyone who is seeking an action-based book or “a story arc” (as taught in college writing classes) will be sorely
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been binge reading Stewart O'Nan novels lately and this book, 'Emily, Alone' is a reread for me. This is the story of 80 year-old Emily Maxwell. Emily is a widow.. she has lost her husband and her children and grandchildren are scattered across the country. Emily spends her time with her old dog Rufus and her sister-in-law Arlene. This story COULD have been a sad one.. after all, Emily is an elderly woman trying to cope with her loneliness and attempting to come to terms with all of the e ...more
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
This slow, meditative novel is not for those who read for a fast plot. Nothing much actually happens in this character study of an elderly woman dealing with the loneliness and complications of growing older. She nurses her sister-in-law back to health after a health scare, navigates the tricky waters of dealing with her grown children and grandchildren without trying to impose upon them or aggravate them, attends services for old friends who pass away, and tries to fill the endless hours that l ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm not sure about all the great reviews this book received. Yes, Stewart O'Nan is a good author (Songs for the Missing and The Good Wife are among his best novels), however, NOTHING happens in this book. Yes, 80-year-old Emily keeps busy worrying about her aging dog, nagging her adult children about their upcoming visits (she has to plan!), and going to museum openings and breakfast buffets (always with a coupon) with her sister-in-law, Arlene. The reader spends nearly a year with Emily...and t ...more
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm a big fan of Stewart O'Nan and have read several of his books. They're not easy reading even though most are not overly long, coming in at a publisher's dream of 300+ pages. O'Nan's stories are slow and complex with a lot of room for perspective of the reader.

Emily Alone left me feeling drained and a bit sad. It's never quite clear, at least to me, exactly what age Emily is. I'd like to think she is way older than me but I don't think that's true. This perhaps is the reason for the emotiona
Clif Hostetler
An 80-year-old widow living in Pittsburgh waiting for Spring to come, how exciting can this story be? The narrative provides a book length character development by giving an account of the myriad of thoughts, worries, and activities of an older woman. Some readers will note that not much happens, but it’s surprising how interesting this life can be when portrayed by skilled writing.

Life at this age may appear to be uneventful, but early in this book the reader is startled by an event that shows
Lynne Spreen
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: midlife
This story resonates for me because I'm always curious about the second half of life. In Emily, Alone, an older woman grapples with what must be a common existential conundrum: what is the motivation, at this age? Was she too old to start something? How was she to see herself now?

Emily see-saws back and forth between a hunger for life and a sense of futility. In one scene, Emily's daughter and adult grandchildren are visiting for Christmas. Everyone has gone to bed, the house is finally quiet a
Ron Charles
Apr 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Lately, Stewart O’Nan hasn’t made it easy to recommend his novels. The only thing they’ve got going for them is their superb quality. But ask, “What’s it about?” and his fans sound defensive or pretend they’re getting an important call on their cellphones. Just try persuading your book club to read a novel about the day a Red Lobster restaurant closes. (Without incident.) Or how about a novel that describes an old lady waiting for spring? (It comes.) Face it: O’Nan has become the Kobayashi Maru ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it
I have finally found my genre and I predict a new category of literature for aging female baby-boomers. When we find a book that appeals to us, but that I figure guys would have no interest, it can no longer be called chick-lit; it will have to be called crone-lit. "Emily, Alone" is just that. Nothing happens in this book, yet I gobbled it down, which just goes to prove my theory that the success of a book depends all on the author's voice, not the story. A little old lady and her aging springer ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Before you are allowed to post a review of this novel, I’m going to have to ask you to present an official id. An official id with your dob on it. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think a person under fifty can really appreciate this book and I’m not sure those of you under fifty would have the patience to read a book where the biggest plot points are repairing a scratch on her new car.

Emily is an elderly widow, in the last years of her life. Her family, except for an elderly sister-in-law, lives far
Bill Krieger
Dec 06, 2011 rated it liked it
About 200 pages in, I realized that nothing was actually going to happen in Emily, Alone. Meh. It was okay, so I kept on reading. I enjoyed the portrait of a senior citizen living alone enough to give it 3 stars and a thumbs up.

Emily, Alone is just a character study of an old, retired widow living in Pittsburgh. Now, you might think that the life of a retired widow in Pittsburgh might not be that exciting, and you'd be correct. O'Nan goes into great detail about the very mundane activities of Em
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a gentle, sensitive, but unsentimental story about the marginalized lives of the elderly. Eighty-year-old Pittsburgh widow Emily Maxwell lives alone with her ripe old intractable dog, Rufus, in the modest and dignified neighborhood where she raised her children and loved her husband. She's alert, oriented, and productive in the garden, a wisp of a woman with a waning appetite and bones like balsa. She goes about her days with routine ruminations and mingled sensations. Her nights are lon ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mom by: NYT
Shelves: fiction
It is hard to believe that a man could write so realistically about the thoughts of an elderly woman living alone, or that I could find the result so hard to put down.

My favorite chapter, "Kleenex," began and ended on page 76. In it, Emily prepares for a Christmas visit from her daughter and young adult grand-children. When she uses the last tissue from the box in her bathroom, she travels throughout the house weighing tissue boxes and swapping them around before deciding where the new full box
Stewart O'Nan is best known for his novels about the typical and the everyday. No extra frills, no dramatic twists. Good writing about the everyday, even the mundane. He exemplified this masterfully in "Last Night At The Lobster" (a dedicated manager's last shift at, quite literally, The Red Lobster), and even more so in "The Odds" (a last attempt on a marriage on the rocks, quite literally, over the rocks in Niagara Falls).

Unfortunately, he failed to repeat this with "Emily, Alone". Perhaps be
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is my first five star book for 2013, but it comes with a warning. If you are looking for a book with a lot of action, this isn't it. Instead, this is a character-driven look into the life of an 80 year old woman as she nears the end of her life. Emily Maxwell is a widow living alone in a changing Pittsburg neighborhood. Her children are scattered and visit infrequently and she feels that, because of her strongly expressed opinions, she has built a wall between herself, her children, and her ...more
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Emily Alone is a quiet little book and as someone from Pittsburgh as well as someone over 60, I really enjoyed the story. One reviewer wrote that you need to be over fifty to enjoy this book and I have to agree that you have to have a certain understanding of Emily' s mindset to appreciate the story, such as, not driving without her husband for years and making a very brave decision to not only drive again but to buy her own car. When I recently made a trip back to Pittsburgh, I was very proud o ...more
Holly R W
In February, I loved reading the author's book, Henry, Himself, which is about Henry, his wife Emily and their life together. When I learned O'Nan had written about Emily after Henry's death, Emily, Alone, I wanted to read that as well. What ties the books together is O'Nan's beautiful writing. He certainly excels at writing living, breathing characters.

In "Emily, Alone," she is in her eighties, widowed and living alone with her dog companion, Rufus. Arlene, Henry's sister, is her surviving frie
Larry H
Stewart O'Nan is one of my favorite authors. He has written some absolutely phenomenal books, including Snow Angels, which is one of my favorite books of all time. He has an incredible ability to tell a story that stays with you, and creates vivid, multidimensional characters. His latest book, Emily, Alone is a perfect example of his literary talents, and I read the whole thing in one day.

Emily Maxwell is growing older, and she's not enjoying it entirely. She doesn't enjoy the changes her subur
Jane Dugger
I quite enjoyed this book. It deserves 3.5 stars. I found Emily interesting, compelling and quite wish she was my neighbor. Or even better, I'd introduce her to my father.

This would be a good book for discussion (I seem to be saying that a lot about the books I've been reading) especially if you have a wide-age range book group. Although, I don't think I would have liked this much if I had read it in my 20s.

There were times where I felt a sad for Emily and it made me ponder how my life will be
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Emily Alone is a must read. It follows octogenarian Emily through her days and thoughts. Its a rare opportunity to follow a fictional character at this point in her life. The book is like listening to a quiet symphony without needing to be aware of the complexity of composition, instruments, acoustics, etc. that make up the piece. The novel allows one to simply be in the moment of this persons life. Although she may not be who you might be or will be, its a gentle and simultaneously passionate, ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, audible
Having found O'Nan's Snow Angels a bit grim, but well-written, and Last Night at the Lobster equally well-written, and not nearly as sad as I'd feared, I spent an Audible credit on this book ... which is very well-written, and not at all grim. Like Lobster, it's character-driven; however, in a full-length novel (the other was a novella) that's tougher to pull off. Listening to the audio may have contributed as the short chapters (more or less) ran together, whereas a print book would've seemed l ...more
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don't think Stewart O'Nan can write a bad book. He one of my favorite authors. Still, if it's an action-packed book you're looking for, ’Emily, Alone’ will be a disappointment. If you're looking for a wonderfully written book about everyday life, in this case that of an elderly woman, you will love this book. It isn't a book I'd pack for a trip to the beach. I'd save it for a time when I could sit back and relish each word, which I did, and hated when it ended and I had to finally put the book ...more
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating: 4.75/5

I loved this book! It was just the right thing to read during the busy holiday season, as the chapters are short (almost vignettes) and I could easily pick it up and set it down without losing interest. I loved Emily (and her loyal dog, Rufus) and I found myself nodding my head, feeling a bit like I was seeing a glimpse of my future self in some of Emily's situations and emotions. It also brought to mind memories of my maternal grandmother (who lived alone for 11 years after
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Update 8-20-2019. I'm reading the Henry book and rounded this up to a 4-star. It's amazing how much I remember from this book that I read over 6 years ago!

More of a 3.5.

I like O'Nan's style and being from a suburb of Pittsburgh, I enjoyed all the references. But--this book has the one problem I've been having lately--there is no true ending. The story just stops. I realize there was a prequel (and perhaps a sequel?) but I wish there was some closure, some natural stopping point.

O'Nan does a g
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this sequel to Stewart O’Nan’s Wish You Were Here, exploring Emily’s life alone without her husband, her children’s families busy and geographically removed. As with some of his other books, there wasn’t much in the way of plot but was rich in character development.

This book made me confront the idea of what it would be like to live alone, and just how I would fill my days. Would, like Emily, my mundane daily chores become rituals of comfort, providing my life with structure and meani
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Detail and context of aging and of the aged is superior here. This is the kind of novel that many will 2 star because little happens. It's precise life, working class and Pittsburgh, but definitely NOT of the demographics that are clearly and currently in highest mode. Not for fashion, for outlook, for sensibilities. And as such it actually can be in parts, rather dated. But honest, true, central to SO many eyes of the last century.

Emily was of the exact generation of my greatest friend, and her
Mij Woodward
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I should not have liked this book at all, as the action is so SLOW. Actually, to say there is any action at all is a misnomer. It's really the interior life of an 80-year-old woman facing her death, looking at her life, her children's and grandchildren's lives.

I believe O'Nan purposely made this a slow sort of uneventful read. Because that atmosphere helps present the life of an older person, dealing with the mundane, no longer in the midst of a lot of action (like raising kids).

The chapter that
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Edited: read in 2012 but this review was inadvertently posted in the comments section so I'm moving it to a review.

4.5 stars

This is a slow, insightful, beautifully written novel. There’s no action-packed plot but we are given a glimpse into the interior iife of Emily, a widowed lady in her 80s whose children and grandchildren live far away.

Emily is an ordinary old woman, living ordinary days with her old dog Rufus and her sister-in-law as her one friend. I found it absorbing to read about her i
Apr 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm beginning to see that no one writes about "nothing" more beautifully than Stewart O'Nan. His characters are so real, the meaning in the mundane so poignant, his books are simply impossible to set aside. It helps to have read "Wish You Were Here", but "Emily, Alone" is a worthy stand-alone novel, as well. At this point, I'd be surprised if anything he writes could ever disappoint.
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Except for his book about the Red Sox, written with Stephen King, this is my first book by this author.
It reminded me a lot of Ann Tyler.
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west of sunset by stewart o'nan 2 6 Nov 10, 2014 05:35PM  

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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
  • Henry, Himself

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