At the moment Stewart O'Nan is the best women's fiction author I can think of. Sure, I'm a fan of Elisabeth Berg and Anne Tyler, but O'Nan over the years has so many voices in his writing. He's quite the chameleon in creating unique characters you want to get to know.
The first book I ever read of his was A PRAYER FOR THE DYING. As I can recall, it was the second epiphany I ever experienced while reading. Granted, this story isn't quite as tragic as the story about an undertaker who lives in a small town after the civil war where the plague has struck. But O'Nan has a way of giving depth to the most ordinary.
Emily, Alone is the sequel to WISH YOU WERE HERE. You don't have to read that book to enjoy this book. This story focuses basically on the mother, who lives alone wishing she knew how to make things right with her daughter and son. Also hoping she'll really know who her grandchildren really are. Some day. Before she's dead. Of course, it doesn't help much when the one who she thinks looks the most like herself..is a lesbian. Really, all Emily would love if her family would reach out to her more. But when the do, she's suspicious of their actions.
Emily was always the wife. She never drove much. Now her husband Henry has past away, and she has the big Buick in the garage that she can hardly get around in. Little alone, get out of the garage. She has her husband's sister around, who might be more of a hindrance than help. But she expects Arlene to do the driving. But when Arlene has a bout in the hospital, she see she's a much better driver than her old friend who can't stop chain smoking. Then there is Rufus her dog who is quite a character, too.
“There’s the question that I write about a lot — there’s the weight of the past but then there’s the possibility of the future — is it too late for us to change? And that seems to me a very American question because it seems to me that we’re so concerned with self-invention. We can get very complacent and say, ‘This is the person I am’ when you’re always becoming something else.”
— Writer Stewart O’Nan tells Terry Gross about a reoccurring theme in his work, NPR
Book critic Maureen Corrigan’s review of Stewart O’Nan’s ‘Emily Alone’: It takes a deft hand to do justice to the ordinary. Most novelists don’t even bother to try, which is why most novels are about a rip in the fabric of the routine. It’s tough to find fiction ambitious enough to tackle the story of a run-of-the-mill job, a hum-drum family; but, if the mundane matters to you, then Stewart O’Nan is your man.
It is good to read about ordinary life. The routine of how we live which makes one wonder how we remember and how we forget, as well. Its one of those books that will make you want to pick up the phone and see how that relative is doing that you haven't heard from in a while.