Mini- Reviews: Emily Alone, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, and Lost at Sea

Emily, Alone

Stewart O’Nan

Publication Year: 2010

Source: Gift from Kai

I picked up Emily, Alone because it’s not often that I read a book that features an elderly main character, which is something that I didn’t realize until I was halfway through the book. After her sister-in-law has a small stroke, Emily has to face life and do things for herself again. What comes next is an interesting

What I like about the book is that O’Nan does a great job of having Emily look back on certain aspects of her life with regret, joy, or even a new sense of wonder. Emily has never gotten along with her daughter Margaret and wishes she was closer to both Margaret and Margaret’s adult children. Her husband, parents, and best friend are all gone, and there aren’t many people Emily would call part of her inner circle.  You see the day-to-day details of someone who is almost on her own. While reading the book, I often wondered how I would look back on my life if and when I become elderly.

More than halfway through the book Emily has a rant or two about politics and our current president. There were also a few lines about his race. I could look at it as someone who is looking at a newer generation and not understanding it but by the end of Emily’s rant on what she felt was wrong with American politics, I was turned off to reading more about Emily. So instead of getting a rating of 4 or 5 out of 5, Emily, Alone gets a rating of 2 ½ out of 5 stars.

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

Alice Walker

210 pages

Publication Year: 2010

Publisher: New World Library

Source: Public Library

I first fell in love with Alice Walker’s poetry more than a decade ago when I discovered her poetry collection, Her Blue Body Everything We Know. It’s a wonderful volume of poetry so when I saw that Walker recently published a new collection, I didn’t hesitate to check this out from my public library. I was less than one hundred pages into the book, when I decided to just make it a DNF (do not finish). Among the subjects that Walker writes about includes stopping wars, holding on to anger, and learning lessons which sound somewhat passionate but this collection lacks emotion for me. I couldn’t find a reason to keep reading so I stopped. Out of all the pages I read, I only found two poems worth mentioning: “Sometimes” and “Watching You Hold Your Hatred”.

Lost At Sea

Bryan Lee O’Malley

172 pages

Publisher: Oni Press

Publication Year: 2005

Source: Public Library

 I have a lot on my mind and not a lot to do so it’s going to come out, all of it, and then, then , it may begin to make a sort of sense. . .

I love love love the work of Bryan Lee O’Malley. He’s the genius behind one of my favorite new-to-me graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim. I had no idea that he wrote anything else so I was ecstatic to find more of his work. Lost at Sea is the story of Raleigh, an eighteen year old who thinks she doesn’t have a soul. It sounds weird, right? But it’s not. She’s the only child of divorced parents, friendless, and with no clue on what to do with herself or her life. By chance she ends up going on a cross-country road trip with three classmates. Raleigh’s already a loner and kind of awkward around other people, but maybe these three can get her out of her shell.

Lost at Sea perfectly captures the loneliness and confusion of life. This is a book I can see myself handing to a teenager or an adult. O’Malley’s black and white drawings compliment the story nicely while taking a back seat to let everything develop. I think Craig Thompson’s brilliant and beautiful graphic novel, Blankets, would go nicely with this book. Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars.


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
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27 Responses to Mini- Reviews: Emily Alone, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, and Lost at Sea

  1. Care says:

    Enticing, must admit. I really like the name Raliegh. Is that an odd reason to want to read a book or do I ever really need a reason. 😉

  2. zibilee says:

    Well, it sounds like two out of three of these just weren’t your cup of tea. I am glad that you at least enjoyed the O’Malley book, and I have to say that I loved your mini-reviews. Thanks for sharing them and for your candor today.

  3. Kailana says:

    I really enjoy O’Malley, too. I wish my library had the rest of the Scott Pilgrim series, but they did have this one which I read and enjoyed a couple years ago.

    • Vasilly says:

      Don’t you just hate that?! For the longest time my library didn’t own the first book in the Scott Pilgrim series. *sigh* Hopefully your library will buy the rest of the series soon.

  4. Gavin says:

    Why do I not know about O’Malley? I hope my library has Lost at Sea.

  5. It’s unfortunate that we have to look so hard to find elderly characters at the heart of novels and stories, so it’s doubly too bad that you didn’t feel a connection with Emily. But I’ve had that kind of thing happen to me with characters too.

  6. celawerd says:

    The Alice Walker novel sounds very interesting. I will have to look into it.

  7. JoAnn says:

    Sorry Emily’s political rants ruined the book for you. I read the first book, Wish You Were Here, and then followed up with the sequel Emily, Alone. O’Nan’s ability to write from the perspective of an 80 year old woman left me totally in awe. Gave it a 5 start rating and won’t be surprised if it ends up on my list of favorites for the year.

    • Vasilly says:

      I would have easily given the book a 5 rating if it wasn’t for that rant. The book is already making a lot of “best of 2011” lists already so I won’t be surprised either if it ends up on your list too.

  8. bookmagic says:

    I like O’Nan, but this sounds like it would irritate me also.

    • Vasilly says:

      The book might irritate you too but a lot of people seem to love the book anyway. It’s a book that’s more character-focused than driven by plot.

  9. Jenny says:

    I don’t think I’ve read any of Alice Walker’s poems! I love The Color Purple SO MUCH but none of her other books have come close to the awesomeness of TCP. I will give a try to not this poetry collection but a different (and hopefully better?) one. Any recommendations?

    • Vasilly says:

      I recommend Walker’s anthology, Her Blue Body Everything We Know. It’s a really good anthology that’s just as calm as Hard Times Require Furious Dancing but more passionate and powerful.

      I really need to read The Color Purple soon.

  10. Debbie Nance says:

    I felt like Emily’s rants against the president were true to her character. I may not care for her opinions but I found them realistic.

    • Vasilly says:

      I don’t know if I feel like they’re true to her character. I remember her fuming about her daughter-in-law too but in a way that felt helpless and weak. If her rants about the president and how he became Commander-in-Chief were similar I would have understood.

  11. BermudaOnion says:

    I need to get Lost at Sea for me son – he loves Scott Pilgrim too.

  12. Carrie K. says:

    I’m sorry the poetry didn’t work for you, but I love the title! I’ve been watching episodes of Ally McBeal lately, and I love how they end almost every episode by dancing. 🙂 And Lost at Sea is definitely going on the TBR list!

    And can I say how glad I am to see you blogging again. I missed you!

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  15. Beth F says:

    Drat. I just loved Emily, Alone. I guess I too felt her rants were part of her character. I don’t have to agree with characters’ politics or other choices to fall in love with a book.

    I am definitely going to track down Bryan Lee O’Malley — you never steer me wrong on GNs

  16. Aths says:

    I haven’t heard of Lost At Sea, and I haven’t read Scott Pilgrim either, yikes! This book sounds good, so I’m going to check it out.

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