Micah Mortimer lives a quiet, uneventful, steady life. He likes order and patience, which is perhaps why he enjoys being his own boss and running his small, steady, one-person computer repair business. He has a ‘partner,’ Cassie Slade, (girl-friend seems too strange a term for him, at their age) – a fourth grade teacher who lives in her own apartment.
But life isn’t as ordered as anyone might hope, and Micah’s calm, ordered life is interrupted in multiple ways in a short span of time. First, his girl friend tells him that she may soon be evicted from the apartment she is sub-leasing when the actual renter discovers she has a cat.
At about the same time, a young man (Brink Bartell Adams) shows up at Micah’s doorstep. He claims to be Micah’s son from a relationship Micah had in college with Lorna Bartell. Brink’s never been able to get an answer from his mother as to who his father is, but his little research suggests it is Micah – his mother’s only boyfriend from college. Micah, does the math and is quite certain he is not the father, but allows Brink, who appears to have left his college suddenly and without notice, to stay at his apartment for awhile.
This action causes Cassie to end their relationship. She assumes that rather than invite her to move in with him when she’s facing eviction, he brings in a border so that he won’t have to extend the offer to her. And bringing in Brink puts Micah back in touch with his old flame, Lorna. And at about this same time, Micah meets a new client, a young woman who has suddenly inherited a small fortune (including a computer she can’t access) and she appears interested in exploring it with him. Micah’s ordered world is facing a crossroads and he must decide which road to take.
Anne Tyler takes her usual observational skills and storytelling prowess to deliver another warm family story … though of course there’s no ‘family’ here.
I was introduced to Tyler’s writing while I was in college, by a forward-thinking professor who actually thought Modern Literature should include authors who were currently writing and publishing, and I’ve been reading her work ever since. She’s comfortable and familiar, and yet … I wasn’t sure what direction this book was going to take. In fact, I was uncomfortable for the longest time, sure we were going down a specific path that seemed natural, but one I didn’t really want to explore. But Tyler is able to surprise, even with this gentle read.
The book is charming, with several different looks at relationships, and family converging on one man who was comfortable where he was. Is change necessary? Avoidable? Or is it a natural progression of time?
This is a quick read, but don’t think that quick equates with simple. There is a lot packed in here, and nobody does it better than Anne Tyler – packing a lot of story in a tight frame. This is not the sort of book that will have an immediate, ‘a-ha’ sort of impact. This is the sort of book that you will likely reflect on for quite some time after closing the covers. And frankly, I found these books much more rewarding.
Looking for a good book? Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler is a charming reflection on family, relationships, and change in an ordered world.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Redhead by the Side of the Road
author: Anne Tyler
hardcover, 192 pages