The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

September's book on my New Year's Resolution reading list is The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. 

When I was picking books for that list, I picked it partially because it was partially written in Charlotte, partially because I just wanted to read it and partially because it was written by a woman. 

Here's the blub:
With the publication of her first novel, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, Carson McCullers, all of twenty-three, became a literary sensation. With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers' finest work, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940.
At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small town life. When Singer's mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book's heroine (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated -- and, through Mick Kelly, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.
I really liked this book - although it came at the tail end of a 'Southern Angst" reading jag that included this as well as Light In August, The Moviegoer and To Kill a Mockingbird

Although Heart certainly considers issues of poverty, racism, bigotry and discrimination (of all kinds) the book is really about loneliness - and self-imposed loneliness at that.  All four main characters are suffering from discrimination of one kind and another - due to race, disability, gender and socio-political standing.... but what they really are is lonely in their hearts. 

For whatever reason, they all find solace in Singer, the deaf mute.  But although he brings comfort to the others, they bring none to him. 

Ultimately, I didn't find this to be an uplifting book, but it is not without hope and somehow, the spiritual isolation and economic squalor which overwhelm the characters rather limits any belief that the book would have a happy ending.  The ending felt 'right' to me and I hoped that the surviving characters were able to find comfort and peace as they continued to search for an end to their loneliness. 

So I'm glad I read it. 

In case you're keeping up, I have three books left on my 'official' list:  The Invisible Man, The Assistant and Blood Meridian


  1. I've read Invisible Man and The Assistant. Both are really good. Not exactly uplifting but good!

  2. I don't think there have been very many 'uplifting' books on my list this year!


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