Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler: A review

Micah Mortimer, aka the Tech Hermit, may know a lot about computers, but he doesn't know beans about relationships. Especially relationships with women. When his woman friend (he refuses to think of a woman in her thirties as a "girlfriend") of three years tells him that she is afraid that she is going to lose her apartment and be homeless, he jokes that at least she has her own car to sleep in. 

Shortly thereafter she comes to his apartment and finds that he has invited the son of one of his college sweethearts to sleep on his daybed. A person with any insight might have intuited at that point that there was a chilling of the atmosphere, but when she later breaks up with him, declaring the relationship over, he is totally surprised.

And about that son of his college sweetheart, he had turned up on Micah's doorstep, after an estrangement from his mother and stepfather, declaring that Micah is his father. But since Micah never had sex with the young man's mother, he's pretty sure he is not his father. Nevertheless, he takes him in until he can get sorted out and reconciled with his mother.

Meantime, Micah continues his one-man business as the Tech Hermit. After college, he had been involved in an IT startup but after a misunderstanding with his partner, he had walked away and started his own business. Now he spends his time visiting the little old ladies in his neighborhood who are barely computer literate and who are his main clients. He mostly just unplugs and then reconnects the machines and then everything works fine. It's not exactly challenging work.

In addition to his work with computers, Micah is also the caretaker of the apartment building where he lives, doing general maintenance and odd jobs. For these services, he lives rent-free. He lives alone, except when he's taking in sons of former sweethearts, and he has a housework routine that is set in stone. He has a day designated for vacuuming, one for dusting and general cleaning, one for mopping floors, etc. Before the breakup with his woman friend, that, too, had settled into a solidified routine.

Anne Tyler is a wonderful creator of characters and many of her best characters are men. I would rate Micah right up there with some of her most memorable like the brothers in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant or Macon Leary in The Accidental Tourist. He is an oddball and a bit of a fussbudget who lives a rigid life that is about to be disrupted and thrown completely out of balance by circumstances. Micah is at a loss as to how to react and how to fill the aching emptiness that he feels after his routines are thrown into confusion.

In spite of the quirkiness of his character, Micah's heart is really in the right place. We care about this guy and want him to be happy even when we sometimes want to shake him. Tyler is so good at this, at giving us someone we can root for. And we can be pretty sure that she will bring everything full circle, finally letting Micah learn something about what is important in relationships and maybe giving him a happily ever after. 

I have read most of Anne Tyler's books over the years and there have been a lot of them. This is her twenty-third. This is one of her best, in my opinion. The only criticism that I might make of it is that it is too short. I wanted my visit with Micah to last longer.

Oh, and that "redhead" by the side of the road? It's not at all what you might think.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars   

Comments

  1. Lovely review! I've only read The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler years ago and barely remember the plot to be honest.

    Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler does sound good. I am now very curious as to what the title of this novel really means!

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    1. I won't tell! But it is worth a read to find out and it is a short book - less than 300 pages - so it won't take you long.

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  2. Sounds good. Sometimes these characters might seem like an exaggeration, but I do know people as socially awkward as Micah sounds. That sounds the wonder of good writing, a skilled novelist will bring these people to life on the pages of a book.

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    1. Bringing characters to life with deft descriptive passages is Tyler's strongest point as a writer, in my opinion.

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  3. I can't wait to read this one. Her books always get to me in a big way. Yes, the characters and the odd things that can happen in life.

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    1. I look forward to hearing what you think of it. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that you will love it!

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  4. Now on my library list - although who knows when it will reopen. Have been getting used to using the electronic library - not the same but better than nothing. Hope you are well. Cheers

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    1. I have appreciated my Kindle more than ever during this period. I can have any book that I want with just a few clicks. I had preordered this one and it was delivered on the day it was published here so I was able to start reading it immediately. But we do need those libraries open. Hopefully soon.

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  5. Yeah I was surprised to see the novel is under 200 pages. That's short for Tyler! But because of your favorable review I will check it out.

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    1. Even in its brevity, it delivers its message. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it.

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