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Redhead by the Side of the Road
Cover of Redhead by the Side of the Road
Redhead by the Side of the Road
A novel
Borrow Borrow
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE

“Tyler's novels are always worth scooping up—but especially this gently amusing soother, right now.” —NPR
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.
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE

“Tyler's novels are always worth scooping up—but especially this gently amusing soother, right now.” —NPR
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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Excerpts-
  • From the book Chapter 1
     
    You have to wonder what goes through the mind of a man like Micah Mortimer. He lives alone; he keeps to himself; his routine is etched in stone. At seven fifteen every morning you see him set out on his run. Along about ten or ten thirty he slaps the magnetic TECH HERMIT sign onto the roof of his Kia. The times he leaves on his calls will vary, but not a day seems to go by without several clients requiring his services. Afternoons he can be spot- ted working around the apartment building; he moonlights as the super. He’ll be sweeping the walk or shaking out the mat or conferring with a plumber. Monday nights, before trash day, he hauls the garbage bins to the alley; Wednesday nights, the recycling bins. At ten p.m. or so the three squinty windows behind the foundation plantings go dark. (His apartment is in the basement. It is probably not very cheery.)
     
     
    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. Unvarying outfit of jeans and a T-shirt or a sweat- shirt, depending on the season, with a partially-erased- looking brown leather jacket when it’s really cold. Scuffed brown round-toed shoes that seem humble, like a school-boy’s shoes. Even his running shoes are plain old dirty-white sneakers—none of the fluorescent stripes and gel-filled soles and such that most runners favor—and his shorts are knee- length denim cutoffs.
     
    He has a girlfriend, but they seem to lead fairly separate lives. You see her heading toward his back door now and then with a sack of takeout; you see them setting forth on a weekend morning in the Kia, minus the TECH HERMIT sign. He doesn’t appear to have male friends. He is cordial to the tenants but no more than that. They call out a greeting when they meet up with him and he nods amiably and raises a hand, often not troubling to speak. Nobody knows if he has family.
     
    The apartment building’s in Govans—a small, three- story brick cube east of York Road in north Baltimore, with a lake-trout joint on the right and a used-clothing store on the left. Tiny parking lot out back. Tiny plot of grass in front. An incongruous front porch—just a concrete slab stoop, really—with a splintery wooden porch swing that nobody ever sits in, and a vertical row of doorbells next to the dingy white door.
     
    Does he ever stop to consider his life? The meaning of it, the point? Does it trouble him to think that he will probably spend his next thirty or forty years this way? Nobody knows. And it’s almost certain nobody’s ever asked him.
     
     
    On a Monday toward the end of October, he was still eating breakfast when his first call came in. Usually his morning went: a run, a shower, then breakfast, and then a little tidy- ing up. He hated it when something interrupted the nor- mal 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. Old ladies had the easiest problems to fix but the greatest number of fractious questions. They always wanted to know why. “How come this happened?” they would ask. “Last night when I went to bed my computer was just fine and this morning it’s all kerblooey. But I didn’t do a thing to it! I was sound asleep!”
     
    “Yeah, well, never mind, now I’ve got it...
About the Author-
  • ANNE TYLER was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of more than twenty novels. Her twentieth novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 13, 2020
    A fastidious everyman weathers a spate of relationship stresses in this compassionate, perceptive novel from Tyler (Clock Dance). Micah Mortimer, 43, makes house calls for his Tech Hermit business and moonlights as the superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building, where the residents observe his regimented routine and wonder, through Tyler’s gossip-inflected narration, “Does he ever stop to consider his life?”
    The disruptions begin with a call from his schoolteacher girlfriend, Cassia Slade, who is in a panic because she is facing eviction. Then college freshman Brink Adams shows up on his stoop and claims to be his son. Micah knows it isn’t true, because he never slept with Brink’s mother, Lorna, an old girlfriend, but he tolerates the languid, starry-eyed kid who claims to look up to him for living a working-class life and who fixated on a photo of Micah kept by Lorna. After Micah tries to put Brink in touch with Lorna, he disappears. When Cassia dumps him for not immediately offering to let her move in, Micah descends into a funk that just might push him to prove himself worthy of her companionship. While Micah’s cool indifference occasionally feels like a symptom of Tyler’s spare, detached style, his moments of growth bring satisfaction. This quotidian tale of a late bloomer goes down easy. Agent: Jesseca Salky, Salky Literary Management.

  • Kirkus

    January 15, 2020
    A man straitjacketed in routine blinks when his emotional blinders are removed in Tyler's characteristically tender and rueful latest (Clock Dance, 2018, etc.). Micah's existence is entirely organized to his liking. Each morning he goes for a run at 7:15; starts his work as a freelance tech consultant around 10; and in the afternoons deals with tasks in the apartment building where he is the live-in super. He's the kind of person, brother-in-law Dave mockingly notes, who has an assigned chore for each day: "vacuuming day...dusting day....Your kitchen has a day all its own" (Thursday). Dave's comments are uttered at a hilarious, chaotic family get-together that demonstrates the origins of Micah's persnickety behavior and offers a welcome note of comedy in what is otherwise quite a sad tale. Micah thinks of himself as a good guy with a good life. It's something of a shock when the son of his college girlfriend turns up wondering if Micah might be his father (not possible, it's quickly established), and it's really a shock when his casual agreement to let 18-year-old Brink crash in his apartment for a night leads Micah's "woman friend," Cass, to break up with him. "There I was, on the verge of losing my apartment," she says. "What did you do? Quickly invite the nearest stranger into your spare room." Indignant at first, Micah slowly begins to see the pattern that has kept him warily distant from other people, particularly the girlfriends who were only briefly good enough for him. (They were always the ones who left, once they figured it out.) The title flags a lovely metaphor for Micah's lifelong ability to delude himself about the nature of his relationships. Once he realizes it, agonizing examples of the human connections he has unconsciously avoided are everywhere visible, his loneliness palpable. These chapters are painfully poignant--thank goodness Tyler is too warmhearted an artist not to give her sad-sack hero at least the possibility of a happy ending. Suffused with feeling and very moving.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    February 1, 2020
    If Tyler's large-cast, many-faceted novels, including Clock Dance (2018), are symphonies, this portrait of a man imprisoned by his routines is a concerto. Micah Mortimer emerged from a childhood in a large family and a chaotic household desperate for order and solitude. Now in his forties, he lives in an aggressively neat and clean basement apartment in the Baltimore apartment building in which he serves as super. He is also the Tech Hermit, responding to calls from people needing computer help. He keeps to a strict schedule, which includes some time for his lady friend, Cass, a fourth-grade teacher, but not enough to interfere with his need for privacy. And then, as so often is the case in Tyler's radiantly polished and emotionally intricate tales, someone unexpected and in need appears and disrupts the status quo. Micah's catalyst for panicked self-examination and change is a stranger, Brink, a college freshman inexplicably on the lam. Micah dated Brink's mother long ago, but he's had no contact with her since. What is going on? Tyler's perfectly modulated, instantly enmeshing, heartrending, funny, and redemptive tale sweetly dramatizes the absurdities of flawed perception and the risks of rigidity.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Tyler's warmly comedic, quickly read tale, a perfect stress antidote, will delight her fans and provides an excellent first for readers new to this master of subtle and sublime brilliance.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2019

    A self-employed tech expert and superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building, Micah Mortimer never, ever looks for a change in routine. But when the woman in his life faces eviction and a teenager shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his son, Micah has got to adjust.

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Anne Tyler
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