Emily, Alone by Steward O’Nan

Elder novel

Emily, Alone

I spent a very long week reading “Emily, Alone” by Stewart O’Nan.  Not a long book, in fact, it is quite concise. Had thought I would whip right through it. But, mom broke her hip and has been in the hospital. So, I have been picking it up and putting it down as I can. Today, I finished it.

Emily is an 80 year old woman living in Pittsburgh. Her husband Henry died a few years ago. Her sister-in-law Arlene is her best friend.  They both drive, still. Very slowly. Arlene, not so well. And they love to have breakfast at the local buffet. Until Arlene has an episode and ends up in the hospital.

O’Nan is no slouch with words. His prose is precise and concise. And his depiction of Pittsburgh is exact. I’ve visited Pittsburgh many times. My husband is from Pittsburgh and most of his family still reside there. So I know what I’m talking about.

Then there is Rufus the dog. I fell for this simple old dog immediately. I am a huge animal lover and Rufus bit me in the heart. Just thinking about Rufus makes me smile. In one instance Emily has come home from leaving Rufus for several hours. She’s left a light on for Rufus, but still he was upset, huffing at her back as she fixed his dinner. He sneezed as if he were scolding her. Those of us with pets can relate to how we are sometimes treated by our beloved animals when they are feeling left out.

This is a novel with heart. It is about aging, but it is really about life, and  we are all going to get older, if we are lucky. With humor and insight, O’Nan has managed to capture the feelings of an 80 year old woman. How did he do this? It is amazing.

author Pittsburgh

Stewart O'Nan

Most of us have families. No one has a perfect one. Emily has children dealing with midlife issues and kids of their own. She also has friends who are dying or sick. The time frame of this novel is 2007. Things are really just beginning to go south with the economy.

Thank God for the summer place at  Chautauqua. Emily speaks lovingly of it and looks forward to spending time there each year. Something to look forward to, someone to love and something to do.

My mom was moved into a skilled nursing facility last evening. It is only about ten minutes from our  home and my work. We are quite thankful for this development. Saves us a bunch of time and will give mom a much better quality of life.


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