Emily, Alone: Book summary and reviews of Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan

Emily, Alone

A Novel

By Stewart O'Nan

Emily, Alone
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2011,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

A sequel to the bestselling, much-beloved Wish You Were Here, Stewart O'Nan's intimate new novel follows Emily Maxwell, a widow whose grown children have long moved away. She dreams of visits by her grandchildren while mourning the turnover of her quiet Pittsburgh neighborhood, but when her sole companion and sister-in-law Arlene faints at their favorite breakfast buffet, Emily's days change. As she grapples with her new independence, she discovers a hidden strength and realizes that life always offers new possibilities.

Like most older women, Emily is a familiar yet invisible figure, one rarely portrayed so honestly. Her mingled feelings - of pride and regret, joy and sorrow - are gracefully rendered in wholly unexpected ways. Once again making the ordinary and overlooked not merely visible but vital to understanding our own lives, Emily, Alone confirms O'Nan as an American master.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"O'Nan...does beautifully with women characters, and the older protagonist is a plus." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. ...O'Nan's depiction of [Emily's] attempts to sustain optimism and energy during the late stage of her life achieves a rare resonance." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. O'Nan again proves himself to be the king of detail." - Book List

"Rueful and autumnal, but very moving." - Kirkus Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Mij Woodward
Mij, Alone, Appreciated This Book
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 moved me the most was toward the end, when she visits her home-town, at her parents' graves, and contemplates moving back.

I now go around thinking of myself as Mij, Alone. Mij, Alone, is doing all right. I am 13 years younger than the character of Emily, but many of the things she experienced and thought about resonated with me. The chapter when Emily waits for her kids to call on Mother's Day--so right on.

Although I am now looking forward to reading a book with more action (Caleb's Crossing), I am very grateful Stewart O'Nan wrote this book. Emily has helped prepare me for what all of us have to go through--getting older and dying.

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Author Information

Stewart O'Nan Author Biography

Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, The Speed Queen, A Prayer for the Dying, and Last Night at the Lobster. Granta named him one of America’s Best Young Novelists. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Link to Stewart O'Nan's Website

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