We have read four Anne Tyler books in our club since 2012: The Beginner’s Goodbye, Digging to America, Clock Dance, and now Redhead by the Side of the Road. None of these are her most famous or award-winning books, but her stories are easy to read, comfortable, like catching up with friends or relatives you haven’t seen for a while.
Most of us seemed to neither actively like nor dislike Redhead by the Side of the Road. Obviously there are gradations of this! Like the autism spectrum one of us feels certain the main character Micah occupies. Our first responder asked if this book actually is a bestseller because she felt it was a “bunch of nothing.” One of us found it boring, but she still cared about the characters. Another really likes Anne Tyler’s writing and feels that she develops things quietly. A late-arriving member said that it detailed a mundane, boring life, with some funny things, like “Traffic God.”
We discussed Micah’s actions and motivations and touched on many of the provided discussion questions without even trying. Many of us were uncertain about the title. I read from a couple of email responses, which I have posted in the comments as usual. I tried to draw some comparisons between Eleanor Oliphant coming to terms with reality and Micah’s awakening. Last month’s selection, Eleanor Oliphant engaged us more, with greater dysfunction, more drama, abuse, and a surprise at the end. Tyler’s characters are real and believable, so there was energy and excitement at the relatability and easy understanding, tinged by apathy, perhaps because we wonder “what’s the point?”
Why do we read what we read? Escape, entertainment, education, understanding? I think we take in what we read and it becomes an experience that will inform us in future interactions and decisions—whether we are aware of this or not. Did we identify with Micah, obligated and dreading the circus of activity from a family dinner, or did we identify with the family? How reliable is our perspective of the past or even the present? How many times do we see a redhead by the side of the road and never know where to find the fire hydrant! Thanks for reading with us and joining our “family” discussion.