Oh, what a novel. Really this is about as perfect as they come. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter has that blend of story, character, setting, lyricism, insight, pacing, and so forth and so on that makes a wonderful read. Throw all that under a title like The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and what more could you ask for?
There were certainly echoes of other great American novels of the era, most notably To Kill a Mockingbird and Native Son. In fact, once I had it in my mind that The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was a more mature, grown up version of TKaM I couldn't shake it, even if it was only partially true. Having made these comparisons, I was expecting quite the tragedy. Mix in this amazing cast of characters McCullers has assembled and there is guaranteed to be quite an explosion at the end. Perhaps I set my self up for failure, because, while this story is certainly tragic, in comparison with what I was expecting, it was quite mild.
McCullers, whose age is forever attached to his book (she was 23), handles this novel with such experience. Craft-wise, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is nearly a perfect novel. For starters, she expertly shows how shifting third person voice is done. She goes into the minds of these five unique, equally interesting characters, and captures their voices with skill. Clearly she empathizes with her characters. She understands their view of the world, though, aside from their feelings of anger and loneliness, they are as different from one another as can be expected for a novel of this time and setting. What else? Well, the word choice is exquisite, the story is well paced, and then there's that title. And come on, that scene between Mick and Harry in the woods—perfect! God I loved the way McCullers reveals nothing and yet everything in that scene. It's beautiful and heartbreaking, profound and yet simple. How did she do it?