Review of Redhead by the Side of the Road

An odd day of reviewing in which the book I loved annoyed many and the one that annoyed me was beloved. Go figure!

Redhead by the Side of the Road

Anne Tyler

April 7, 2020


Blurb: From the beloved Anne Tyler, a sparkling new novel about misperception, second chances, and the sometimes elusive power of human connection.

Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. A self-employed tech expert, superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building, cautious to a fault behind the steering wheel, he seems content leading a steady, circumscribed life. But one day his routines are blown apart when his woman friend (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a “girlfriend”) tells him she’s facing eviction, and a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son. These surprises, and the ways they throw Micah’s meticulously organized life off-kilter, risk changing him forever. An intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who finds those around him just out of reach, and a funny, joyful, deeply compassionate story about seeing the world through new eyes, Redhead by the Side of the Road is a triumph, filled with Anne Tyler’s signature wit and gimlet-eyed observation.

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When you enter Anne Tyler’s world, you initially think of how ordinary the characters are. Micah is an IT guy and building superintendent who likes things to be a certain way. Did he inherit the gene from a grandfather he didn’t know or is it conscious rebellion against the mess in the home he grew up in and his sisters’ equally messy lives? One of the answers leads to an underlying fear. And, strangely, despite not being obvious, fear is a theme, as I guess it is in the lives of most people these days.

Ordinary things, ordinary people.

Micah isn’t paying attention and may miss out on the best thing that has ever happened to him in Cass. Why did she change the rules in their relationship? Did she change the rules or did he miss something important?

Redhead by the Side of the Road is a novel of perceptions. The redhead is a baby or is it a fire hydrant? Do dreams of babies mean that you’re longing for a baby or about to embark on a period of rebirth? And what can it mean when a boy wanders into your life because he thinks you may be his father?

I’ve always found Tyler’s writing and characterization to be quirky but right on target, and it is no less so here. Themes of isolation, fear, belonging are interwoven and I found it extremely pertinent reading in these days of virus-laden exile.

The ending took me a bit by surprise because of its emotional impact and quickness because, for once, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was location-wise in the novel because I was gripped by the feeling and revelations. Yet, I wasn’t disappointed in the ending because I could not imagine it ending anywhere else and not losing the heightened emotion.

Would you like Redhead by the Side of the Road? Frankly, I can’t tell you unless what I’ve written above sounds appealing. I’ve read some of the reviews. Lifelong Tyler fans deemed this an unworthy effort while others loved it. I found it satisfying, albeit short. But if the heart and substance are all there, is short a bad thing?

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



4 out of 5 butterflies

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