Redhead by the Side of the Road, by Anne Tyler

A man who doesn’t quite fit in, who feels somewhat passive and distanced from his own life, who hasn’t had much luck maintaining meaningful relationships — that’s a familiar Anne Tyler character. It could be Liam Pennywell, protagonist of Noah’s Compass and one of my least favourite Tyler characters, but it could just as easily be Barnaby Gaitlyn in A Patchwork Planet, my all-time favourite of her novels.

In this case, though, it’s Micah Mortimer, a solitary single man in his forties who is self-employed as a tech troubleshooter (his one-man company is called Tech Hermit) and a building superintendent. Micah has a small, contained, tidy life, and tidiness — both literal and emotional — is important to him. He also has a girlfriend, not the first he’s ever had, but none of his relationships has ever been long-term or serious, and the relationship with warm, funny schoolteacher Cass seems to be going nowhere. Then someone from his past throws a curve ball into Micah’s well-organized life, and things start falling apart.

It’s a simple premise, well executed, and while I didn’t love Micah as I will always and forever love Barnaby Gaitlyn, he didn’t irritate me like Liam Pennywell did either. He’s just … just a guy, you know, who needs to throw himself a little more wholeheartedly into his won life, and who still has time to make changes. This is a small, neat, enjoyable novel with Tyler’s usual perceptive eye for human detail. I read it quickly and enjoyed it.

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