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Buy Redhead by the Side of the Road: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 by Anne Tyler from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
Book DetailsISBN: 9781784743482
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Book Review: Redhead by the Side of the Road: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 by Anne Tyler - Reviewed by CloggieA (07 May 2020)
5 stars Redhead By The Side Of The Road is the twenty-third novel by award-winning, best-selling American author, Anne Tyler. At forty-three, Micah Mortimer isn’t dissatisfied with his life: it may be predictable, but having an adequate place to live, just enough work, and the company of a woman friend suits him fine. Excitement is overrated.
“He and Cass had been together for three years or so, and they had reached re things had more or less solidified: compromises arrived at, incompatibilities adjusted to, minor quirks overlooked. They had it down to a system, you could say.”
Micah exercises daily, eats healthy food and has a series of (not entirely inflexible) routines that give him a sense of control. He makes house calls around the city for his IT business, Tech Hermit and, while being careful not to get too involved, looks after the tenants in his building in his role as unofficial super. From his older sisters and their families, there is a mixture of concern and amusement at the way he lives his life.
Then, in the space of an October week, two unsettling incidents ruffle his calm. Cassia faces the threat of eviction from her apartment because of a secret pet (and Micah’s reactions to this later turn out to be unsatisfactory); and a teenaged boy turns up claiming that Micah is his father.
It is always such a pleasure to read a book by Anne Tyler, and this one has you smiling all the way through, unless you are laughing out loud or saying “oh, dear” or “oh, my”. Nothing terribly dramatic happens, but Tyler’s special talent is making ordinary lives shine.
Tyler is wonderful at character description: “She was so sharp-edged, both literally and figuratively – a shrill, vivacious mosquito of a girl, all elbows and darting movements, and it was a wonder she’d given a glance at a stick-in-the-mud like Micah.”
Micah is quirky but believable and his inner monologue is often particularly entertaining: the remarks he resists making, and the Traffic God who comments on his impeccable driving are two examples.
His bewilderment at human interaction is palpable: “Sometimes when he was dealing with people, he felt like he was operating one of those claw machines on a boardwalk, those shovel things where you tried to scoop up a prize but the controls were too unwieldy and you worked at too great a remove.”
Family gatherings are Tyler’s specialty: “A mahogany side table held a lamp and a pair of pruning shears and a bottle of nail polish. No doubt the living room was equally disorganized, but you couldn’t tell, because it was filled wall-to-wall with people… The general impression, as always, was tumult: noisy, merry, unkempt people wearing wild colors, dog barking, baby crying, TV blaring, bowls of chips and dips already savaged.” As always, many of her characters are a little eccentric, but their observations on life are insightful at the same time as being amusing. If only this dose of Tyler’s magic had been longer… This unbiased review is from a copy provided by Penguin Books Australia.
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