Redhead by the Side of the Road

Anne Tyler is certainly one of the grand dames of the American literary scene at age 78. She has written 23 novels, three of which have been nominated for a National Book Award, one, “Breathing Lessons,” won a Pulitzer Prize, and one, “A Spool of Blue Thread,” received international acclamation by being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I have been an avid reader of hers for nearly forty years, having read 18 of her novels. Why do I keep coming back to her?
The answer is simply that she gives me pure reading pleasure. Her books, most of them set in Baltimore and its environs, always have an interesting plot, but the real strength of her writing is her marvelous protagonists, all variations of a quirky Everyman or Everywoman.
The Everyman in her last novel, “Redhead by the Side of the Road,” is Micah Mortimer, an IT repair guy who doubles up as a super for a small Baltimore apartment building. Like so many of Tyler’s main characters, Micah has made poor decisions regarding both love and career. We meet him in the novel where he has attained creature of habit status, a middle-aged man set in his ways.
In typical Tyler style, Micah’s daily routine is described humorously. “Monday was floor-mopping day—the kitchen floor and the bathroom . ‘Zee dreaded moppink,’ he said as he ran hot water into a bucket. He often talked to himself as he worked, using one or another foreign accent. Right now it was German, or maybe Russian. ‘Zee moppink of zee floors.’’’
The book is a delight and a great and fast read (only 178 pages) to divert your attention from our own routines that we now face each day in this new and scary Covid-19 world.

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