“You have to wonder what goes through the mind of a man like Micah Mortimer,” Anne Tyler begins her newest novel. “He lives alone; he keeps to himself; his routine is etched in stone.”
Micah, the persnickety main character in Redhead by the Side of the Road, likes things just so. He starts his daily run precisely at 7:15. He works as a tech consultant and moonlights as the building super. He keeps his apartment neat and clean and orderly. He’s a good guy with a good, predictable life.
Until one day, a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son. (He’s not, they quickly establish.) Even so, the surprise throws the middle-aged curmudgeon’s life off-kilter and forces him to reevaluate much of his carefully circumscribed existence.
I’ll stop there on the storyline to avoid any spoilers, but suffice it to say, the novel is classic Anne Tyler. She’s been writing for more than a half-century now, and this book -- her 23rd -- has all the charm we’ve come to love. Of course, some accuse Tyler of a cloying cuteness -- all those portraits of ordinary people living ordinary lives, with homespun details and heartwarming plots. I’m normally a pretty cynical reader myself, but I continue to be delighted by Tyler’s wry tone and her expert touch. She’s a pro, and diving into one of her novels is like flying with an experienced pilot: You’re in good hands, so you know the ride is going to be smooth, relaxing and enjoyable.
Redhead by the Side of the Road offers just that once again -- a soothing escape during troubled times.