“The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” ― Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
A real and human book about potential and the need for connection, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is set in the American South where times are hard, and family dynamics are complicated. It tells the story of a friendship between two deaf and mute men, and how one of them, John Singer carries on with his life when the other is put into a mental hospital.
Four different characters in the novel seek out Singer to talk to. Being mute, he doesn’t say anything back to them, but they feel he understands them better than anyone else and they return to his sparse room again and again to share the calmness of his presence and learn where to go in their lives next.
My favourite character is a young girl called Mick who has grown up taking care of her younger siblings but also has a passion for music and can hear symphonies in her head. The parts of the book where she begins to discover her gift and describes how it makes her feel are beautiful and you, as a reader, sincerely hope she is able to follow this passion as she grows older.
“She wished there was some place where she could go to hum it out loud. Some kind of music was too private to sing in a house cram fall of people. It was funny, too, how lonesome a person could be in a crowded house.” ― Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
I wont ruin the ending of the novel, only to say that it isn’t the most uplifting of books- its more one to read when you feel lonely and can take comfort that at one point other people once felt the same as you, rather than a book that will cheer you up. Nevertheless, the writing is realistic, detailed and nuanced and the story and characters will stay with you long after you have read it. Books like these do not come round very often.
“How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?” ― Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter