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***The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

by Carson McCullers

Reviewed September 12, 2004.
Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin), Boston, 2000.  First published in 1940.  359 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (F MCC).

Thanks to my friend Suzanne for loaning this book to me.  Of course I had heard about this book before, and she motivated me to finally read it.

Carson McCullers does a marvelous job showing us some eccentric characters from a small town in the South.  We have four separate lonely people who believe that no one understands them.  Each one believes he has finally found someone who truly understands, who truly knows, in the person of John Singer, a deaf mute who reads lips.  He listens to them with rapt attention and wisely nods in response.

This book fleshes out the verse from Proverbs, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”  For John, too, believes there is only one person who understands him—his former roommate Antonapoulos.  Antonapoulos is also deaf and dumb.  John talks to Antonapoulos with his hands, and Antonapoulos doesn’t say much in response.  When Antonapoulos is sent to an asylum, John feels destitute, and that’s when he makes the acquaintance of four lonely people from the town.

Although this book has many poignant moments and is wonderfully well-written, it is a depressing book.  If you think something bad is going to happen to someone in the book, it will probably be far worse than you were expecting.  (For example, instead of being killed, one person is merely crippled for life.)  A few people do escape unscathed, but it’s not exactly a cheering book.

Still, in between tragic events, the people of this book do make you smile, and do make you think.  May your own lonely heart find greater sustenance than these people did.

Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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