I read recently that people who tend toward anxiety prefer to watch TV shows and movies that they’ve already seen, because then there’s no anxiety about how things turn out. I think this is true for books, too. I would always, always, prefer to read something I’ve read before–even if I didn’t love it the first time around. I think this is one reason I always return to Anne Tyler–even if it’s a book of hers that I’ve never read before, I know how it’s going to turn out.
That sounds like a criticism, but to me it’s not–particularly right now. What could be more comforting at this moment in history than to read a book where you know everything will turn out okay at the end? At this point that’s all I ask of a book. For that reason Redhead by the Side of the Road was a great book to read in 2020. It’s the story of Micah, one of Tyler’s typical misfits. He lives in a basement apartment (in Baltimore, of course), and works as handyman at his apartment building, as well running a computer repair business. He has a girlfriend he doesn’t seem to serious about, and a big family (of course). One day, a college-aged kid shows up on his doorstep, the son of his college girlfriend, claiming to be his son. His carefully planned life is suddenly thrown off kilter.
I don’t know if I thought this book was good, exactly. I don’t think I would have bothered to review it if it didn’t fill a bingo square. It was perfectly fine. It was soothing to read. If you’d told me that I’d actually read this years before and forgotten, I would have said, “Yeah, that seems right.” Maybe in another time that will be a criticism, but right now it was exactly what I needed.