If you missed my first Throwback Thursday where I explained my inspiration for this feature and my love for The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen, check it out here.
For my next selection I present a book that not only became my favorite of the year, but one of my favorites of all time.
Title: The Heart is A Lonely Hunter
Author: Carson McCullers
Originally Published: Houghton Mifflin, 1940
Synopsis: With the publication of her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,
Carson McCullers, all of twenty-three, became a literary sensation.
With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate
glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered
McCullers' finest work, and an enduring masterpiece.
center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for
various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each
one yearns for escape from small-town life. When Singer's mute companion
goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the
book's heroine (loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music.
Brilliantly attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human
condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South,
McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the
rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated--and, through Mick Kelly, to
the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty
“The Heart is a lonely hunter with only one desire! To find some lasting comfort in the arms of another's fire...driven by a desperate hunger to the arms of a neon light, the heart is a lonely hunter when there's no sign of love in sight!”
It's been a long time since a book struck this much of an emotional chord in me and threw so many surprises at the same time. I spent much of my time reading the book with my hand covering my mouth which stood agape. This was extra awkward because I read it in eBook, on my iPhone, on the bus. People probably thought I was crazy!
The Heart is A Lonely Hunter is one of those "intertwining of different people's lives under a particular philosophical theme" kind of books that I always enjoy reading. The main theme in this book was of course loneliness. Many of the main characters feel as if they don't fit in and have an inability to connect to their fellow residents in the small southern town, they feel isolated from the world around them. The one person that they are able to connect with is John Singer, a deaf-mute who sits and listens to their problems and frustrations. For a lot of them all they really need is someone to listen to them. Singer does just that, and is able to make them feel like he understand them. I think we all know how powerful it can be to find a person that will do nothing but listen without passing judgment. They raise him up to this almost godlike force in their lives (they even visit him on Sundays) and see not only their own loneliness within him but also find a kindred spirit.
But the fact that Singer is practically unable to respond adds a completely different dimension to this concept for the reader. We are privy to his thoughts and know how he feels about the others who view him as their only friend and confidant. The relationships are very one-sided as they are all getting exactly what they need from Singer while he is getting absolutely nothing from them, only deepening his loneliness. But he is incredibly selfless and often puts the needs of others before himself. John Singer is a phenomenal character. He is interesting, complex, and you can't help but hope that he gets what he wants.
At times the book is reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird and if Harper Lee doesn't list Carson McCullers as one of her influences she's a dirty rotten liar. They both have a prevailing theme about the injustice that people at the time were faced with every day. The Heart is A Lonely Hunter was published in 1940, and is set in a small Southern town dealing with the issues of the day including segregations, women's rights, and of course the Great Depression. It's these challenging times that help ground the characters struggles in reality and give them even more weigh. This is not a story about people who are whining about problems that don't really exist, they have actual problems and it makes you root for them to overcome these problems. This fact also allows you to empathize with each of them even though not only are they all very different but so are their problems and goals. Despite these difficult times they are all trying to better their situation in life. They are striving to make the world a better place for not only themselves and others. The book is also very much a story of loss of innocence and idealism in the face of adversity.
As you may have gathered by these themes, the tone of this book is incredibly sad. You develop an emotional connection to people who constantly have bad things happen to them and it wears you down. But what makes The Heart is a Lonely Hunter even more emotional is Carson McCullers' writing style. The book is beautifully written and hits you in the depths of your soul. Carson McCullers has an incredible way with words, it's haunting. The story is deeply poetic and profound. The fact that she wrote this book when she was 23 years old makes me feel incredibly unaccomplished. I couldn't even write a grocery list at that age! I think it struck me so much because I read it at a time when I had just moved and I could very much empathize with the feelings of loneliness and need for connection that much of what the characters are feeling.
I definitely recommend this to someone who liked To Kill A Mockinbird, likes Classics, or likes books set during the Great Depression. I definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking to read an emotionally gripping story that is incredibly well-written.
If you've read The Heart is A Lonely Hunter let me know your thoughts in the comments, if you haven't read it then you should, but either way HAPPY READING!