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Likely Stories: Redhead by the Side of the Road, by Anne Tyler


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

The Redhead by the Side of the Road is the latest offering by Anne Tyler.  This story of Micah Mortimer is the life of a man living a well-ordered household.  He has a lady friend, but their interactions are on and off.  One day, she reveals she has been evicted from her apartment, but Micah shows no apparent interest in her problem.  Then, to make matters worse, a teenager shows up and claims he is Micah’s son.  Micah is not used to so much intrusion in his life. 

Anne also sprinkles a number of hints during the story.  For example, she writes, “He’s a tall bony man in his early forties with not-so-good posture—head lunging slightly forward, shoulders slightly hunched.  Jet-black hair, but when he neglects to shave for a day his whiskers have started coming in Gray.  Blue eyes, heavy eyebrows, hollows in his cheeks.  A clamped-looking mouth.  (4).  //  “Does he ever stop to consider his life?  The meaning of it, the point?  Does it trouble him to think he will probably spend his next thirty of forty years this way?  Nobody knows.  And it is almost certain nobody’s ever asked him”  //  On a Monday toward the end of October, he was still eating his breakfast when his first call came in.  Usually his mornings went: a run, a shower, then breakfast, and then a little tidying up.  He hated it when something interrupted the normal progression.  He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the screen: EMILY PRESCOTT.  An old lady; he had dealt with her often enough that her name was in his directory. (5).

Anne writes, “Once upon a time, more had been expected of him.  He’d been the first in his family to go to college; his father had pruned trees for the Baltimore Gas and Electric and his mother had waited tables, as did all four of his sisters to this day.  They’d viewed Micah as their shinning star.  Until he wasn’t any more.  For one thing, he’d had to take a number of odd jobs to flesh out his partial scholarships, which had made keeping up with his studies kind of a struggle.  More important though: college just wasn’t how he’d pictured it” (13-14).

Micah was a polite and pleasant man.  He also manages a small apartment.  Tyler writes, “A man needed the viruses stripped from his computer, and a mom-and-pop grocery store wanted to start billing its customers online.  In between, Micah checked out a faulty wall switch in 1B.  1B was Yolanda Palma, a dramatic-looking woman in maybe her early fifties with a flaming mane of dark hair and a mournful, sagging face” (15).

Tyler reveals some of the relationship between Micah and Cass, his lady friend.  Anne writes, “He and Cass had been together for three years or so, and they had reached the stage where things had more or less solidified: compromises arrived at, incompatibilities adjusted to, minor quirks overlooked.  They had it down to a system, you could say” (20).  Anne Tyler’s latest book, Redhead by the Side of the Road, is a charming and interesting book.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.