Henry Himself @stewartonan @penguinrandom #oldage #family #reflection #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Looking back on your life can often be a very sobering time. As you age, the events of the past become clearer and a lot of should of , could of, would of slips into out thought and makes you wonder, now with time and maturity, how would I have handled things. This was another book that Jan and I read together and for a much better perspective I think you should definitely read her review.

Henry, Himself

Jan’s review

Simply said and simply beautiful. With spare prose, this lovely book has much to say about the ordinary. I’m a huge fan of the author and Emily, Alone was a favorite when I read it back in 2012.  No one can write about the ordinary in such an extraordinary way as Stewart O’Nan.

This is the prequel to Emily, Alone.  Henry is 75, and married to Emily.  I was touched at the quiet, deep love he still has for his wife.

As Henry and Emily go about the rhythm of their days and the seasons, we are privy to his thoughts and musings.  He muses about his childhood, his time in the service during WWII, meeting and falling in love with his wife, his children, the past, and his hopes for the future. He reflects on his life and the meaning of it all.

Not everything in Henry’s life turned out the way he’d hoped. The reality of Henry’s age and mortality hovers over it all. He sees his cohorts dying, and knows he has fewer days in front of him than behind him. This is a quiet introspective novel, one where nothing much happens on the surface. It’s a poignant look at an average elderly man looking back over his life and coming to terms with it, eventually accepting what can’t be changed, and enjoying the life he has left. He is a good man, an unsung hero.

The only thing that kept this book from 5 stars is there were parts that I thought were too slow and detailed, such as the golf game. But overall, I loved this story for its quiet simplicity, and for Henry who grew on me as the novel progressed.

As an aside: I often laughed in recognition at some of the conversations he and Emily had. Did the author eavesdrop on conversations between my husband and myself?  I read the part about the dog pee spots on the lawn aloud to my husband and we had a good laugh. The author nailed it 100% from my response  to my husband’s solution. Haha….men and their lawns.

Marialyce and I buddy read this together. We both enjoyed it, me more than her. For a balanced look, read both our reviews

Marialyce’s review

For Henry Maxwell, time has passed and now into his seventy-fifth year, he reflects back on the life he has lead. He finds himself thinking about what he was and is, a husband to Emily, a father Margaret and Kenny, and a grandfather, and as he looks to his life, a life filled with traditions, he wonders has he been a good man, a good husband, a good father? As in any family, there has been trials. His daughter Margaret is a recovering addict addicted to drugs and alcohol facing a marriage that seems to be falling apart, while his son Kenny, seems to maintain a distance that Henry sees as his fault as a parent. Even his wife Emily seems at times to be his only constant along with Rufus his beloved dog, but Emily too, seems to be distant.

This is a look back on life and a wondering if. It’s something all of us do as we age, we often think if only I had done this or that differently, maybe things would be better not only for me but the people I love.

While I did enjoy the story, I found myself not totally engaged with the whole book. I tended to lose a bit of interest as the author seemed to concentrate somewhat on the game of golf which in all honesty, I know nothing about. Honestly, there was also some skimming going on as well.

This was an introspective book, one that takes a deep look into characters and their actions, and tries to make the reader understand that we are all tied to the things we have done. Our good decisions and mostly our bad ones, seemed to plague our minds and certainly they do with Henry as he wonders where did I possibly go wrong? It is something all of us wonder at various times of our lives. As an aside, I believe one has to be a patient reader to fully enjoy this tale. As I was very much caught up in the imminent birth of our twin grandchildren, I fond that I didn’t have the patience I do think was necessary to appreciate this story fully. I do recommend this story to those who love a character driven story on memory an the things we believe we could have done better.

Thank you to Stewart O’Nan, Penguin Random House, and Edelweiss for a copy of this story.

and here’s the author


7 thoughts on “Henry Himself @stewartonan @penguinrandom #oldage #family #reflection #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

  1. Terrific review Marialyce! I wish you had liked it a bit better but you had a lovely reason to be distracted 💕 Congrats again dear friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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