In this sequel to Wish You Were Here, Emily Maxwell is adjusting to being a widow, living alone, mourning not only her husband's death but the upsetting changes in her quiet Pittsburgh neighborhood. Like any grandmother, she looks forward to the Christmas visit from her children and grandchildren. But when her best friend and sister-in-law, Arlene, ends up in the hospital, Emily has to face another change in her life. Since Arlene had driven her everywhere, Emily now had to drive herself. So she buys a new car and reluctantly becomes a much more independent person. These small events in Emily's life have an unexpected effect, making her a much stronger person, one that looks forward to what life has to offer, even at the age of 80.
Stewart O'Nan has a talent for putting life under a microscope, enabling his readers to understand their own lives. What may seem very ordinary becomes a heartfelt examination of human nature and the milestones of one's life. O'Nan's sympathetic portrayal of characters such as Emily Maxwell gives them dignity, as he makes readers privy to their thoughts, motivations, and dreams. If you like literary fiction that is slower paced, written in a lyrical, richly-detailed but spare style, you will enjoy Emily Alone.