The Book: Don't kill me, but Emily, Alone was my first Stewart O'Nan book. Yeah, I'm a bit slow to jump on the bandwagon but now I've got a permanent seat and no one can throw me off.
Emily, Alone is the story of Emily Maxwell, widowed for almost a decade, nearing 80, and comfortable in her Pittsburgh community. She still lives in the house in which she raised her children and has settled into a precise routine, which includes Tuesday breakfast with her sister-in-law and early church services on Sundays. She listens to classical music, reads library books, does the New York Times crossword puzzle, and dotes on her dog.
In O'Nan's brilliant character study, we see many Emilies, from the one who can criticize a friend's funeral to the one who attends art shows at the museum and dinners at the club. Although she thinks back on her marriage and youth and honors her family traditions, Emily isn't stuck in the past. She may have needed a bit of a boost to get back behind the wheel of a car and she may have her financial affairs in order, but she has maintained her vibrancy. Emily has a future-oriented outlook and a mind that's open to new experiences. This is a refreshing and surprisingly uplifting look at aging middle-class women in America.
Emily, Alone is a followup to O'Nan's Wish You Were Here, but I didn't feel lost as a result of not having read the first book. I know many other reviewers have made the following observation, but I'd like to add my voice to the crowd. It is absolutely astounding that Stewart O'Nan has so perfectly captured the inner life of an older woman--not the stereotype we often read about or see on the screen, but an emotionally complex, smart woman who is both brave and timid but faces life straight on, with head raised and shoulders back. Bravo.
Emily, Alone was an Indie Next pick for April 2011. The paperback comes out on December 27 and will have the cover I've shown here (don't you love it?). I listened to the audio edition (Recorded Books, 10 hr, 18 min), read by Andrea Gallo, and my audio review will appear on the AudioFile magazine website in the coming weeks. Note too that O'Nan's website includes a thoughtful reading guide, perfect for book clubs.
The Tea: We went from summer to fall overnight, truly from open windows to heaters just that fast. In celebration of the season, I tried a new tea this week, Adagio Tea's Oriental Spice. The website lists this description: "Tangy and bright Ceylon black tea is blended with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and orange rinds. Fresh and herby-sweet aromas, spicy flavor balanced with citrusy tea, pleasantly dry finish." The aroma alone was enough to win me over. Yum.
The Assessment: Emily would definitely approve of afternoon tea. Would Oriental Spice be too much for her? Maybe at one time, but as Emily finds her sense of self and accepts her present and future, I think she just might treat herself to some fancy tea.
What About You? Lovely fall colors are just about to burst forth on the mountainside behind my house and that makes for great tea weather. Or maybe hot cocoa. What are drinking these days? Oh and let me know what you're reading.
Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.