|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Modern Classics
Started: Oct. 29, 2011
Finished: Nov. 13, 2011 (16 days)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: On my TBR list
Summary: Set in the small-town American South during the Depression, a lonely deaf-mute man named John Singer stays at a boarding house where his encounters with a whip-smart tomboy, a sickly black physician and his estranged children, a widowed restaurant owner and a drunken intellect lead to unforeseen changes influenced by his penchant for listening.
Like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, childhood and coming-of-age in the Depression-era American South is fently rendered in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter through 12-year-old Mick Kelly, an awkward, lanky young girl who you simply ache for as she seeks the Keatsian truth and beauty of the world while stuck in a poor, small town with troubles of its own.
If Mick is the mind of this novel, John Singer is the heart. A lonely deaf mute separated from his only friend by circumstance, he becomes the go-to listener of the town, unintentionally and even sometimes regretfully as his own problems are never brought to bear (not that anyone offers the same comfort he provides in return) as no one seems to know how to listen to him or, sadly, even tries to.
I saw the movie before reading the book and although it was touching, very well acted by Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke, the book has layers of character development, both painful and wonderful, not seen in the movie. On the other hand, the relationship between Mick and John Singer is given a strength and depth in the movie that fails to launch in the book. Their friendship via her love of music and her determination for him to experience it in his own way is a determining factor in the movie's development but is mostly left undescribed and imagined in the book.
I would recommend the movie as a companion to the book. I'm not sure how I would have taken the movie if I had read the book first but I'm glad I came away from both feeling fulfilled by its story and its harsh, emotional edge.
Rank: (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend