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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Emily, Alone

Emily Alone
Stewart O’Nan
Viking, 2011

Dear Grandma,

I recently finished reading a book called Emily Alone and I couldn’t help but think about you. The main character is an elderly woman named Emily. Her husband has died recently and she is very lonely. She used to have lots of friends and neighbors that she did things with, but now her circle of contacts has diminished so much that she pretty much waits by the phone for someone to call her. Most of her friends have died, her neighbors have moved away or relocated to assisted living facilities, and her children are not close. Her world has narrowed much like yours did. In fact, Emily spends a lot of time wishing her children and grandchildren would call her or come visit her. It made me wish I had made the time to call you more often. As I read this book I imagined you waiting by the phone wishing for one of your grandchildren to call you, just like Emily does.

Emily’s life changes a little when she decides to buy a new car. She had tried to drive her husband’s old car, but it was too big and used too much gas. Driving gives her a little more independence, but it doesn’t take away the loneliness. Her life still centers on weekly brunches with her sister-in-law, taking care of her old dog, and waiting for winter to end. Emily’s life makes me think of old age and how empty it can be for some people. I wonder what that type of loneliness would be like. I remember you used to tell me you were ready to die and I didn’t like to hear you say that. I know you had things to keep you busy: your garden, and Miss Sophia the cat, and my uncle’s many adventures to complain about, but I sure wish I had been more aware of how things were with you. I’m sorry I didn’t visit you more often, sorry I didn’t take the time to send you little notes more often, and sorry I didn’t bother to call you more often.

Maybe this book will make other grandchildren call their grandma more often, before it’s too late. It's too late for me to make things right with my grandmother; I hope Emily's grandchildren end up making things right with her.


Other novels by this author:
Snow Angels (1994)
The Speed Queen (1997)
A World Away (1998)
Everyday People (2001)
Wish You Were Here (2002)
The Night Country (2003)
The Good Wife (2005)
Last Night at the Lobster (2007)
Songs for the Missing (2008)

Other books you may enjoy:

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg (2009)
After the death of her husband, Helen Ames is shocked to discover that he spent their retirement savings before he died, but what he did with their money leads Helen and her twenty-seven-year-old daughter Tessa to embark on new adventures.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Joyce Carol Oates (2003)
The daughter of a migrant worker finds her life in the deprived and ugly transient world shaped by her father, lover, husband, and son.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010)
The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged.

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