Connecting to Loneliness
By Neely Kennedy
In the LHJ November book club
pick Heft, introspective author Liz Moore writes
about how feeling alone in the world can serve as a common denominator that connects
people to one another. Arthur Opp, a morbidly obese recluse narrates the story,
reflecting on how his path to isolation developed over the years due to loss and
estrangement from family and friends, a battle with a negative self-image, and after
being falsely accused of having an affair with the much younger, awkward and shy
misfit, Charlene Turner. Years later, Charlene’s son Kel Keller enters the story.
A talented high-school athlete, he is burdened with fulfilling his mother’s dream
of joining a more privileged society while simultaneously striving to fulfill his
own dreams of becoming a big league baseball player in the hope that it will impress
his absent father. However, both dreams become less and less likely as his mother’s
downward spiral into alcoholism, fueled by a debilitating illness, changes the course
of all of their futures.
Arthur, Charlene and Kel each have their own escape for dealing with their increasing
sadness and loneliness. Arthur uses food, Charlene alcohol, and Kel obsesses about
sports. Below are examples from the book as to how the characters reflect on their
Oversoul of loneliness—“Yes, there was food, but there was beyond
food this idea I had of an oversoul of loneliness. A connectedness among the world’s
lonely that I could turn to when I was very low.”
Rounding the bases alone—“Baseball is the loneliest sport to play
for someone who doesn’t have a father. Everyone’s dad lines up behind the chain-link
fence at games. Everyone’s dad has a catch with them in the backyard. Everyone’s
dad tells them stories about great games and teams and players.”
A kindred spirit—“From the moment I met her I thought—you too?
And I could see by the look in her eyes she also felt it. She was more lonely at
the time than I, I could sense it, and it made me love her.”
Mourning her company—“My mother. There were times when I loved
her so thoroughly. I can remember things about her. The smell of her skin, the humanness
of her skin, the secret that only babies know about their mothers. The smell of
it especially in summer. The mother smell. Beneath everything else I could smell
it on her still when I found her in bed.”
Hoping for tomorrow—I dream of many things, among them the old
man who helped me and my mother get to the World Series, the old man from Pennsylvania
who, years ago, paid for our car to be towed. I think of him when I need relief,
when I need to feel that the world is not after all very bad.”
The promise of comfort—“I am not mad at her for lying. I think
she did it so I would be sure to meet him. I can see her doing that. I can see her
giving us to each other as a gift.”
Book Club Bonus: Since Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude,
try asking club members to reflect on some of the sadder, lonelier times in their
lives, and to share the personal growth or wisdom that took place as a result of
that time, or ask them to identify a personal relationship that helped them to reconnect.
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