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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

by Carson McCullers

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7,701169438 (3.96)1 / 589
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English (155)  Spanish (4)  Catalan (3)  Swedish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All (167)
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
[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. ( )
  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.
1 vote jody12 | Feb 13, 2017 |
We are drawn into the lives of certain individuals and in to life in general and the condition of folks in a southern mill town of the 1940’s
We witness deep and strong love,
Oppression and prejudice,
Vision and understanding juxtaposed against
Emptiness, hopelessness, fear, violence, and filth.
Silent deep understanding and love and Incomprehension.


( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
Set in a small Georgia town near the end of the Great Depression, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter tells the story of five desolate people who are desperately searching for an escape from the myriad ways in which they are isolated in life. Mick Kelly is a teenage girl from an impoverished family who is forced to give up on her dreams before they even begin. Biff Brannon loses himself in running an all-night diner after the death of a wife from whom he was emotionally estranged. Dr. Copeland, the town’s only black physician, is constantly frustrated in his efforts to improve the economic and social plight of other members of his race. Jake Blount is an idealistic, if ineffective, labor organizer who far too often looks for the answers to his problems at the bottom of a bottle.

Connecting all of these characters is their relationship with John Singer, a deaf mute man who becomes a confidant and even something of a spiritual advisor to each of them. But Singer, who does not really understand the others’ attachment to him, is experiencing a profound loneliness of his own. His only real friend, another deaf mute man with whom he roomed for many years, has been committed to a mental facility in a faraway city. Throughout the isolation he faces after his friend departs, Singer struggles to keep alive the hope that the two of them might be reunited and eventually reestablish the pattern of their former life together.

At its core, this is an unrelentingly grim tale that is large devoid of any hope or happiness. However, it is also a compassionate and beautifully written story that offers tremendous insight into the hearts and minds of people who are living on the fringes of society. What makes that a remarkable achievement is that Carson McCullers was only 23 years old when she wrote the novel, hardly an age at which most of us have gained deep insights into the human condition. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was not a particularly comfortable book to read, but it definitely delivers a powerful and lasting message that anticipated much of the discussion regarding the economic and racial divides that we continue to experience today. This book has been lauded as one of the very best novels of the last century and it is easy to see why. ( )
  browner56 | Feb 1, 2017 |
This is a quietly profound book. It was published in 1940 by a 23-year-old author, who then went on to write more books. I've only read this one but will search out others now. The setting is a town in the south with racial issues, poverty, coming of age, characters and situations particular to the 1930s and even to today.

If you like shoot-'em-up action books, you might not like this, but it was a page turner for me. It's hard to say what was so compelling about it. I found the actual writing to be really different and couldn't tell if the things I noticed were done on purpose or not. The story was almost a prediction of the future at some point, accurately. It may give some readers a new perspective on why some of today's news items mean so much to African Americans, such as the election of Obama to the Presidency.

The book is about a set of characters and their lives, so realistically told. And for her time and age, the author had a profound and deep understanding of people and issues. This is remarkable coming from a southern white girl in the early 1900s. This book is timeless, as evidenced by those who read it now, 70 years after it was first published. It's been more recently published in soft cover format. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 155 (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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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 4 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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