The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was another gripping tale from our list; this one told the story of a time in one man’s life, although it differed from An American Tragedy in that it focused less on the decisions this man made and more on the acquaintances who encircle his space in small town Georgia.
The novel opens by describing the close friendship between deaf-mute roommates John Singer and Spiros Antonopoulous. When Antonopoulous is moved to an asylum by one of his relative, Singer rents a room in a boarding house and soon meets the cast of characters that we’ll get to know throughout the book:
- Mick Kelly – A pre-teen girl and clever musician, whose family owns the boarding house
- Biff Brannon – The owner of a diner that the whole ensemble frequents
- Jack Blount – An alcoholic drifter who stumbles into town
- Benedict Copeland – An African American physician (his race is central to the story)
The storyline revolves around the lives of these four, and while they have some interaction with each other and with other secondary characters, they all feel a strong pull towards Mr. Singer. The fact that he is deaf and mute does not hinder their communication with him at all; in fact, it is his silence and reserve that brings out the innermost emotions of the four, as they feel secure with him. Singer’s solitary, ordered room offers a safe harbor where they each explore the depths of their own thoughts as they narrate the events of their lives to him, and process the events through that narration.
This book has no wildly turning plot points or surprises, which was just fine! It’s a leisurely stroll through the lives of a dozen or so central and secondary characters in the Deep South. It’s somewhat similar in tone to The Grapes of Wrath without the backdrop of the Depression. That probably makes it sound quite boring, but it’s not! It’s leisurely. Wear your comfy slippers and read it with a cup of tea on a rainy Sunday.
Now for some quotes (Kindle locator in parentheses)
“He was like a man who had served a term in prison or had been to Harvard College or had lived for a long time with foreigners in South America.” (309)
“The place was still not crowded – it was the hour when men who have been up all night meet those who are freshly wakened and ready to start a new day.” (450)
“It was funny, but Mister Singer reminded her of music.” (794)
“Why hadn’t the explorers known by looking at the sky that the world was round? The sky was curved, like the inside of a huge glass ball.” (1757)
“Even now the strong true purpose was always in him, but he had no time in which to think on it.” (2053)
“In the first dark hours of the morning the sky was black and the stars hard and bright.” (2265) The description of the sky and stars is used often to mark the exact time of day/season, and all the descriptions provide a clear visual.
“The winter afternoons glowed with a hazy lemon light and shadows were a delicate blue.” (2920) Hazy lemon light – love that!
“The sky was a cold azure and the stars were very bright.” See what I mean – cold azure – you can picture that.
“In his face there was still the look of peace that is seen most often in those who are very wise or very sorrowful.” (2945)
“The black, starlit sky seemed close to the earth.” (5239) OK, that was the last sky description I’ll post for now.
Make this one a bedtime book. It’s a great read, but I can close it, turn off the light, and zzzz….
from me, although I feel like I should give it extra points for being written by a young woman – Carson McCullers was only 23 when this enduring tome was published.
Keep Reading! Up next is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut