Ann Tyler’s latest offering, Redhead by the Side of the Road, delivers what we have come to expect from Ann Tyler: excellent characterization, “ordinary” protagonists, and middle aged angst.
The opening lines, “Micha Mortimer is a creature of habit,” introduce us to the most neutral man in the United States, and our first impression of him, as well as our empathy for him is just that–neutral. Micha is a handyman and manager of an apartment building who also runs a computer fix-it business, “Tech Hermit.”
The storyline is described as being, “an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who finds those around him just beyond reach.” We, as readers, are vaguely interested in Micha, this vague man who just “doesn’t seem to get it,” yet is satisfied with his mundane life. He goes about his scheduled routine, a specific day for each household chore, a specific daily round of activities, beginning with a morning run. It is on one of these runs that the reader sees the world through Micha’s myopic eyes, as he looks at a fire hydrant and sees it as a person, “a red head by the side of the road”–thus the title.
The book/narrative itself is not dull nor myopic, it is written in a witty, clever, detailed, pleasing style and never loses the reader from the first line to the last, a darned good read.
It is Friday again, and time for First Line Fridays. Today’s first line is from blogging friend, Colin Chappell’s and CarolynShelton’s Odessa Chronicles, which I plan to start tonight.
Introduction We’re Going to be in a Book!
“There was a familiar whoosh-whoosh sound as Odessa flew down from her roof beam, and landed on the floor very close to Jaxon. ‘Where are the others,’ she asked.
Jaxon rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. ‘I told them to be here for an important meeting at seven o’clock this evening.'”
The characters in the book are gathering to discover that Colin and his partner, Carolyn have been observing them and are going to write their stories/Chronicles down for children and their parents everywhere. Colin describes the book of stories about a Barn Owl, Odessa; a magical Jackalope, Jaxon; Dewey, a cat, and a “Manservant,” Joshua, as “a collection of short stories for children of all ages.”
Having followed Chappell’s blog, https://meandray.com for several years now, and purchasing both Who Said I Was Up for Adoption, (Ray’s story told in alternate chapters from the German Shepherd/Rottweiler’s point of view and Colin’s), and Just Thinking, (Collin’s lovely book of poems that make one do just that–think), I was really ready for his children’s book. I have barely opened it, but I am already excited about what is obviously going to be a really good read.
Houston in all of its fifties glory–the heat and sun of Houston summers–River Oaks, The Shamrock, and the “…world of garden clubs and debutante balls”–is as much a character in this new (2016 publication) novel by the author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, as are Joan and Cece, the unforgettable main characters of The After Party.
Joan Fortier, “…the epitome of Texas glamor and the center of the Houston social scene…” and CeCe, her plain best friend and their strange friendship are at the heart of this novel. Joan is tall blonde and beautiful, everything CeCe is not, but CeCe is loyal and the only one who understands Joan (and the only one who will defend her to her critics). It is the story of women’s friendships, family secrets and relationships, as well as women’s lack of power and status in the 1950’s. In Houston, the “money flows as freely as oil, and the author who is an excellent story teller brings together “flawed characters worth knowing”and involves the reader in the story of the novel as well as the intertwined stories of the two girls’ lives.
I considered it a good investment of my reading time.