Penguin Random House; 4/7/20
review copy; 192 pages
Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler is a very highly recommended, compassionate novel about misconception and the importance of relationships. This may be my new favorite Anne Tyler novel.
Micah Mortimer, 44, is a creature of habit who has his whole life carefully organized. He is superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building and self-employed in his business called Tech Hermit. Micah has a schedule he follows for every day and week. He is comfortable with his quiet, defined life, so it comes as quite a shock when his careful routines are challenged. First Cassia (Cass) Slade, his woman friend, is worried that she is facing eviction and will have nowhere to live. Then 18-year-old Brink, the son of an old college girlfriend, shows up and asks if Micah is his father (he's not). In a mishap of epic proportions, Micah allows Brink to stay overnight in his spare room, which results in Cass breaking up with him. This incident leaves Micah to reexamine his life, his routines, his interpersonal connections, and his choices.
I love everything about Redhead by the Side of the Road - the writing, Micah, the story, the ending, the meaning of the title - everything. The writing is absolutely exceptional. This is a character study of a man and the character of Micah is perfectly captured and described. I was instantly empathetic to Micah's plight and his caution in approaching life. I felt such compassion and sympathy for Micah when the misunderstandings and sudden upheaval in his routine caused the introspection and self-examination on his approach to life and relationships.
The novel is short, but tender and poignant. We all deserve second chances and Tyler flawlessly captures this realization and desire in Micah. It ends on a perfectly hopeful note. As I said, this may be my new favorite Anne Tyler Novel. Certainly this is one of the best novels I've read this year.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.