Micah Mortimer is a single, middle-aged man whose life is governed by routine. On Mondays, he mops his floors. Fridays are for vacuuming. He runs every morning. He lives alone, managing an apartment building. And he finds most people perplexing. “Sometimes when he was dealing with people, he felt like he was operating one of those claw machines on a boardwalk, those shovel things where you tried to scoop up a prize but the controls were too unwieldy and you worked at too great a remove.”
Micah’s carefully calibrated world is upended when he returns from his morning run to find a teenage boy named Brink on his stoop. Brink is the son of Micah’s college girlfriend, and he is convinced Micah is his father. They quickly determine the math makes that scenario impossible, but Brink lingers. He’s gotten into some trouble in college and is reluctant to go home and face his parents. Brink’s presence triggers a chain of events that threaten not only Micah’s daily routine but also his entire carefully structured life. Soon he finds himself rethinking his place in the world.
Not a word is wasted in this slim, beautiful novel. Reading Anne Tyler is always pure pleasure, and Redhead by the Side of the Road is the author at her best. This joyful book is a powerful reminder of how much we need human connection.