The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
This is one of my favourite books. It is a sad description of loneliness, attempts to find friendship, thwarted dreams and lack of understanding of other people. Very beautifully written, it describes a number of people who form a friendship with a man, John Singer, who is deaf and cannot speak. It is set in a southern state and has a background of casual violent racism. Each person considers John Singer to have special powers of understanding and finds something a bit different in him. However, he looks for friendship with other disabled people and finds friendship with the main characters insufficient. In the end most participants have their dreams crushed. Another theme is shown by the inability of the two radicals, who have not dissimilar views, to have any useful interaction. Another theme is alcohol which is used throughout as a prop, eg by Mick Kelly who eats ice-cream and drinks beer mulling over the end of any dreams of music and education — driven by poverty. I would be interested to read a critique and a comparison with ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ eg on the race issues about which is seems really quite pessimistic.
To me this is a classic of 20th century American literature (Southern Gothic) and I would highly recommend it.