Covers: Redhead by the Side of the Road, Back When We Were Grownups, The Grownup, Home Before Dark, The Shadow Man, The Shadow of the Wind

6 Degrees of Separation: What’s in a Title?

It’s time for another adventure in Kate’s 6 Degrees of Separation Meme from her blog, Books Are My Favourite and Best. We are given a book to start with, and from there we free associate six books.

This month we start with Anne Tyler’s latest novel, Redhead By the Side of the Road, which Goodreads describes as the story of Micah Mortimer, “a creature of habit” who lives a “meticulously organized life.” I have not read this novel, but I have read several of Tyler’s earlier books. I always think of her as the Queen of Quirky Characters.

1. Among Anne Tyler’s novels that I have read, Back When We Were Grownups (2001) sounds like the one most similar in content to Redhead By the Side of the Road. Grownups begins with the memorable line “Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person.”

2. Near the end of December I read The Grownup by Gillian Flynn. It’s a very short book that was originally published as a story but was reprinted as a tiny book. I picked it up because I was scurrying to fulfill my Goodreads challenge of the number of books to read in 2020.

3. Flynn’s little book features a palm reader who sees an opportunity to milk some more money out of an apparently rich client. The client insists that her house is haunted and begs the palm reader to come and try to figure out what’s going on there. Another novel I read recently about a haunted house is Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. 

4. Writer Susan Cheever uses the same title, Home Before Dark, for her memoir of life with her famous father, John Cheever.

5. Another writer who wrote a memoir about her father is Mary Gordon, who was only seven years old when her father died. She titled her book The Shadow Man because when, as an adult, she investigated his life, she discovered that his earlier life was vastly different from the man she remembered. 

6. Thinking of Gordon’s memoir has reminded me of a novel on my to-be-reread list, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. This compelling novel, set in Barcelona in 1945, tells the story of a mysterious book and its even more mysterious author.

What’s in a title? In this case, the answer to the question is 6 degrees of separation.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

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