Star Tribune: In this prequel to “Emily, Alone,” Stewart O’Nan creates a vivid world inside the head of a taciturn retired suburban man.
O’Nan trusts that the simplicity of his story, rather than dulling Henry’s character, will instead reveal it. Set against plain domestic backdrops, objects become practically radioactive with symbolic depth. A dusty old centerpiece evokes his mother. A useless roof aerial suggests a lost connection to his children. An ever-collapsing silverware drawer reminds him he’ll always have problems — and a job to do.
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A member of the Greatest Generation, Henry has been a soldier, husband, father, churchgoer and has tried to live his 75 years with honor. Now it’s 1998, the native Pittsburgher is retired, and nothing seems simple anymore. As he moves through his final years, he second-guesses past decisions and wonders if life still holds any surprises.