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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

by Carson McCullers

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7,733172435 (3.96)1 / 590
1940s (12)
Romans (35)
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Showing 1-5 of 158 (next | show all)
With a promising opening: "In the town there were two mutes and they were always together,"
the book evolves into an unremitting sense of dread for each character.

Mick Kelly falls off roof - or worse? Black people are attacked or killed? Drunk Jake hurts John?
Doctor Copeland and Etta never get needed treatment? Boring Spiros returns to town?
Grandfather's farm burned or stolen?

Though evocative of each character's changes, everyone's story cascades into depression or death.
Characters are memorable, but hard to sustain caring about any of them.

Mysteries: Mick having no relationship with her Mother...?
What connection or "communion" John sees in Spiros?
Is this a parallel to what the others have projected onto him?
Why can't he see that the others simply want him to be the friend that they need?

Dreams in novels always feel contrived to the plot. ( )
  m.belljackson | May 27, 2017 |
I dimly remember reading Carson McCullers The Heart is a Lonely Hunter around the time we were reading To Kill a Mockingbird. At the least, my current reading of McCullers reminds me of Harper Lee’s great novel. Set in the days at the end of 1939, she recaptures all the difficulties at the tail end of the depression. Inevitably, it also examines the Jim Crow era in the south. This classic novel should be on everyone’s bookshelf.

According to the back cover, Carson McCullers was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1917. She graduated from high school at 16, and began to pursue a dream of becoming a concert pianist. Rheumatic fever cut short those hopes. While in recovery, she became a voracious reader and decided to become a writer. Carson wrote a total of nine novels, one of which was made into a play. She died at the young age of fifty in New York.

The title of the novel tells all – the Southern town is populated by characters who struggle with loneliness throughout their lives. McCullers begins the novel with the appearance of Singer and Antonapoulos. She writes, “In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together. Early every morning they would come out from the house where they lived and walk arm in arm down the street to work. The two friends were very different. The one who always steered the way was an obese and dreamy Greek. In the summer he would come out wearing a yellow or green polo shirt stuffed sloppily into his trousers in front and hanging loose behind. When it was colder he wore over this a shapeless gray sweater. His face was round and oily, with half closed eyelids and lips that curved in a gentle, stupid smile. The other mute was tall. His eyes had a quick, intelligent expression. He was always immaculate and very soberly dressed” (3). These two men carry a thread through the entire novel, and they affect a variety of characters in an almost exclusively positive way.

Mick Kelly a 16-year-old high school student, began to develop a strange attraction to the tall Mr. Singer. She secretly followed him to work in the morning, and she waited for him after his work day ended. She thought of him constantly. Singer welcomed her into his apartment, where they played chess, listened to the radio, and talked about their lives. Singer held up his end of the conversation with a silver pencil. Everyone liked Mick and Singer, and several other people visited Singer for the same purposes. Even an African-American Doctor had been partially abandoned by his children. In one scene, he sits in a rocking chair in his empty house as his children try and move him into retirement.

As any reader can imagine, all of the characters spend vast amounts of time reflecting on their lives, fretting about their future, or the impending war. I frequently found myself deeply involved with these characters. I wanted to sympathize, to advise, to help them. Carson McCuller’s splendid novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, is anything but dull and depressing. It is, however, a story which drew me into this town, the local bar, the doctor’s office, the apartment where Singer and Mick lived, and the quiet lives most of these characters experienced. Be prepared. The ending is startling. 5 stars

--Jim, 4/22/17 ( )
  rmckeown | May 13, 2017 |
I heard so many good things about thie book that I couldn't wait to read it. I have to admit that I struggled mightily trying to get through it. I'm so sorry to those of you who absolutely loved it, but I just didn't get into it. I do admit that McCullers was an awesome author, and the fact that she wrote the book so young is quite remarkable. The book is a portrayal of four unrelated and very different people who all manage to gravitate towards a deaf-mute man. The setting begins in pre-WWII Georgia. And it all begins in a neighbourhood cafe where all five of the main protagonists eventually meet. The book is a haunting and evocative tale of the mid 20 century in the southern states, and it is about loneliness, poverty, hope and despair. These are all very complex emotions to base a novel upon and McCullers handles this difficulty quite well.. But, to me, the book doesn't seem to really go anywhere. Everyone is in the same situation by the end of the book as they all were at the beginning, with the exception of Singer, who, by the end of the book, is dead. This is certainly not a feel-good book, and there is no happy ending. It is a very realistic portrayal of what life was like in this timeframe in the deep south for the poor and disenfranchised (both black and white). ( )
1 vote Romonko | May 9, 2017 |
[The Heart is a Lonely Hunter] by [[Carson McCullers]]

This is a debut novel by a 23 year old Southern woman, published in 1940. There were things I found very impressive about it, but overall it didn't work for me.

It centers around a deaf man, Singer, who starts out the book best friends with another deaf man, Antonapoulos (you guessed it, he's Greek). Antonapoulos is sent to a mental facility by his cousin and Singer starts to come undone without anyone to talk to through sign language. But four very different people in the town find Singer a perfect person to confide in. Though Singer means a ton to each of them, they don't even realize that they aren't reciprocating the relationship to him.

First for the good things. The writing is smooth and mature and one of the characters in particular, the teenage girl Mick, is very well-written. I appreciated the theme of one-sided friendship.

Unfortunately, I found a lot of the other themes rather preachy, especially the attempt at race relations and communist ideals. And I really didn't care much for any of the characters except Mick.

I've heard many great things about this book, so don't skip it because of my review, but it just wasn't for me. ( )
2 vote japaul22 | Mar 2, 2017 |
Last month’s book, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers produced a mixed bag of opinions. We went from ‘absolutely wonderful’ to ‘rather indifferent’. These comments were directed mostly towards the book’s characters, which we all agreed were the driving force of this novel. In fact, it was the range of characters and their individual isolation which really pulled on some of our heart-strings.
Denise made comment on how she had never read an American novel that dealt so well with the anger of the working class and at the injustices of society. A few of us found similarities with Steinbeck’s work; the struggle and inequities of life tends to overflow in his novels, and Heart seems to find the same space. Here is a story of unique tenderness and love that lacks the ability to share and soar, leaving more than a few souls lost and forlorn. There are few who could not be touched by this exquisitely human dilemma.

Interestingly, Jeanette and Lorna found the character of Singer to be a representation of Christ, and their points were well taken by all of us. He was, to many a confessor, a listener, a sign of hope and a friend. And although this religious slant seems to be generally missed by most critiques that we read, it is a good example of the many diverse views a book club can unearth.

To sum up, we found this book to be beautifully written, considering the young age of McCullers, which was just 23, an incredibly mature book for such a young woman. The adolescent female character of Mick, we are sure, has some biographical foundation, and the supporting roles so exceptional that they certainly must have come from personal life experience.

This was not an easy book to get copies of, so approximately only half of us were able to read it before meeting. But as the others read and offer their views I dare to predict that it will be one of our best loved books this year.
2 vote jody12 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 158 (next | show all)
No matter what the age of its author, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" would be a remarkable book. When one reads that Carson McCullers is a girl of 22 it becomes more than that. Maturity does not cover the quality of her work. It is something beyond that, somthing more akin to the vocation of pain to which a great poet is born. Reading her, one feels this girl is wrapped in knowledge which has roots beyond the span of her life and her experience. How else can she so surely plumb the hearts of characters as strange and, under the force of her creative shaping, as real as she presents—two deaf mutes, a ranting, rebellious drunkard, a Negro torn from his faith and lost in his frustrated dream of equality, a restaurant owner bewildered by his emotions, a girl of 13 caught between the world of people and the world of shadows.

Carson McCullers is a full-fledged novelist whatever her age. She writes with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming. "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" is a first novel. One anticipates the second with something like fear. So high is the standard she has set. It doesn't seem possible that she can reach it again.
 
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To Reeves McCullers and to Marguerite and Lamar Smith
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In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
I'm Singer, you're blue.
Come up to my room and talk,
I'll just smile at you.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618526412, Paperback)

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, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. At its 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 (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully 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, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.
Richard Wright praised Carson McCullers for her ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." She writes "with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming," said the NEW YORK TIMES. McCullers became an overnight literary sensation, but her novel has endured, just as timely and powerful today as when it was first published. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, endearing best.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:28 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. At its 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 (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully 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, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty. Richard Wright praised Carson McCullers for her ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." She writes "with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming," said the New York Times. McCullers became an overnight literary sensation, but her novel has endured, just as timely and powerful today as when it was first published. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, endearing best.… (more)

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