The disparate lives of five people come together when a gay, deaf man takes a room in a boarding house and befriends them all. Set in a southern mill town during the 1930's, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, explores the desperation that we all experience when we feel that we are alone in the world.
I first read this book when I was in high school, about thirty-three years ago. Although there were some subtleties that I didn't pick up on (such as the fact that the character John Singer is gay), I was profoundly moved by the lives of each character and the loneliness and hopelessness they all felt. For a book in which very little happens, the story is gripping. Every character - from an elderly African-American doctor to a thirteen-year-old white girl - is written with such compassion and insight that I felt that I knew them all intimately.
Unfortunately, the book is heartbreaking, and the end leaves the reader with a sense of hopelessness. It's a book that stayed with me back when I was fourteen, and a book that continues to live within me all this time later.