Redhead

Redhead by the Side of the Road
Anne Tyler
Reviewed by Phil

Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. He has his set routines and ways of doing things. He has certain times for certain activities – he runs each morning at 7:15, for example – and certain days for certain chores – Monday is floor-mopping day, Thursday is kitchen day. He lives rent-free in the basement of the apartment building where he moonlights as the super.

Micah operates a small computer repair business, Tech Hermit. He responds to calls from his clients, people who have forgotten passwords or lost files. He drives carefully through the streets of Baltimore, conscious of the ever-watchful eye of the “Traffic God” who nods approvingly from above.

Life is good. Micah is content.

And then one day, chaos descends. Micah returns from his run one morning to find Brink sitting on the porch. Brink is the son of Micah’s college girlfriend, Lorna. After getting into some trouble at school, Brink has run away from home and is looking for a place to stay. He thinks Micah might be his father.

Then Micah’s girlfriend, Cass, calls. She is about to be evicted from her home and hints that Micah should offer her a place to stay. Micah, oblivious, suggests she sleep in her car. Cass breaks off their relationship over the phone. Micah’s sisters are appalled. “But we loved Cass,” they cry out when they hear the news.

And so Micah’s carefully organized life runs off the rails…

With its off-beat characters and attention to quirky detail, Redhead by the Side of the Road is reminiscent of Tyler’s earlier novels, Breathing Lessons and A Patchwork Planet. Tyler’s insight into what makes people “tick,” how they create ways to manage the enormous endeavor of daily life, is spot on. Her wry observations on the hopeless situations in which we inevitably find ourselves are amusing and heartfelt. This is a fun read.

Anne Tyler has published 22 novels and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her 1988 novel, “Breathing Lessons.” “A Spool of Blue Thread,” published in 2015, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Tyler lives in Baltimore, the setting for most of her novels.

Redhead by the Side of the Road will be released in April.