The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a book I have seen referenced many times over the years, although my favorite is probably The Thievery Corporation song features David Byrne (ha). I also have read a bit about Carson McCullers, in terms of all the writers who ended up in a cluster in Paris, but I had not previously read any McCuller’s book prior to seeing this one promoted on the recommendations shelf of my local library. I am so happy that I picked it up, but it is also one of the saddest books I have ever read.
This book is a Southern Gothic, which is a phrase I haven’t heard since university – is is a book set in the South, using flawed characters, tragedy and grotesque situations to explore issues like poverty and racism. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter certainly exemplifies these themes. The central character is a deaf-mute man, the single loneliest man I have ever read about. He seems a mystery, but all of the other lonely people in town see in him exactly what they need from him. A young teenage girl, a black doctor and an alcoholic Communist are all drawn to him, each of them certain that this deaf, speechless man understands them intimately. Each of them are desperate for something, but want someone to hear them most of all.
This book is beautifully written, with each of the characters given a distinctive voice. They are trying to create change, fulfill a purpose, but are constrained by circumstance . It is such a big story, tightly plotted and elegantly written. It was excellent, and I can’t recommend it enough.