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madbkwm

madbkwm

Emily, Alone: A Novel - Stewart O'Nan I picked this up because Mark Haddon's The Red House reminded me of Wish You Were Here and I thought of O'Nan and how I had liked WYWH as well as Last Night at the Lobster. I did not realize that this is a character piece set 6-7 years after WYWH and featuring (duh) Emily (the matriarch) at home in Pittsburgh. I enjoyed WYWH quite a bit, but Emily was probably my least favorite character and I wasn't crazy about this novel.

As far as character pieces go, O'Nan does a good job. Emily is very believable and likeable; I just don't necessarily like reading about a lonely old woman. She is mildly depressed and kind of repetitive, but overall it is a good portrait.

One theme that she touches on a lot is the passage of time (duh). As a widow nearing the end of her life, Emily frequently thinks of the past and is disappointed in the present: "That time was gone, receding even in her own memory, to be replaced by this diminished present. If it seemed another world, that was because it was, and all her wishing could not bring it back." and "That was how time passed--waiting through everything else to do the thing you wanted."

This does not really touch on addiction the way the WYWH does, but of course Emily is still very concerned about Margaret and her addictions. I really liked the quote: "everything with Margaret was temporary and beyond her control, even--maybe ultimately--her happiness." Happiness is such a flighty thing for us all; once we notice we are happy, we almost always start analyzing it and questioning it and ultimately become less than satisfied once again.

Ultimately, Emily is very self centered (as are we all) and I found her behavior at Kay's funeral to be almost laugh-out-loud narcissistic and self absorbed: "The family had placed framed pictures of Kay at various ages around the room, a tactic Emily found manipulative, the embarrassing hairdos and saddle shoes wrenching her back through the decades to her own lost childhood." REALLY? She really interprets these photos as relevant to her and not as a way for the family to remember their loved one in many different settings and occasions?

Overall, it was well done and well crafted, but not really to my taste.