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Publisher's Summary

Carson McCullers was all of 23 when she published her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. She became an overnight literary sensation, and soon such authors as Tennessee Williams were calling her "the greatest prose writer that the South [has] produced." The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter tells an unforgettable tale of moral isolation in a small southern mill town in the 1930s.

Richard Wright was astonished by McCullers's ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." Hers is a humanity that touches all who come to her work, whether for the first time or, as so many do, time and time again. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, most enduring best.

©1940, 1967 Carson Smith McCullers (P)2004 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Finalist, Classics, 2005

"A remarkable book...[McCullers writes] with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming." (The New York Times)

What listeners say about The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Splendid all round

McCullers' captivating and curious novel is read by Cherry Jones with a brilliant sense of Southern melancholy.

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what do you say about a masterpiece?

what can I tell anyone about this book that hasent already been said a thousand times.
I can only tell you what it made me fell and think .it made me sad and joyful, horrafied and elated. the truly sad fact is this could be written about today's America nothing has seemed to have changed ,everyone's connected but everybody feels alone....

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Brilliant story, brilliantly told

I loved this and will listen again. A story about the human condition, class, race, politics wrapped in a perfect tale of individual lives.

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long and boring

I can't say I enjoyed this audio and at times it just became my background noise without feeling I was missing much.

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  • Michael
  • 15-03-2015

Beautiful Prose and Perfect Narration

This is a much overlooked classic with excellent prose and deeply interesting characters. There is little external story, instead the internal stories of the characters, all misfits, all dreamers, all lovers, are juxtaposed and explored. The narration is perfect with superb pacing, expressing each characters’ internal dialogs distinctly and with emotion.

I loved this book, and particularly liked this audible addition. I finished it in one day, and will happy listen to this again.

Some of the reviews describe this as book as depressing. The book demonstrates the essential importance of not allowing your dreams to slip away, thus I found it uplifting, in its own way.

This book is not for everyone as there is virtually no action or story.

43 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Connie
  • 26-06-2006

Cherry Jones - 10

Wow, Cherry Jones really made this so much more interesting than the story itself. I've always bought Broadway tickets if her name was on the marquee, now I will look for any other Audio Books that she has narrated. Great, great, job.

As far as the book goes -- I am truly impressed that a twenty-three year old could write such character detail.

37 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Barbara
  • 08-06-2005

Do yourself a favor

and read this book. I saw the movie almost 30 years ago and was impressed but never realized the scope and depth of the original novel. The gushy praise of the Audible edition by users on the Audible Yahoogroup teased me into downloading it, and even then I put off listening for a while, thinking that "literature" might very well mean BORING. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Cherry Jones does a fantastic job of delivering the narrative, and the story is phenomenal; moving, acerbic, provocative, painful and compelling. There aren't many books worthy of this kind of praise, and fewer still have been so skillfully rendered in audio editions. GO FOR IT!

52 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Brenda
  • 28-08-2004

Exquisite narration

Great novel and an interesting story. The characters are very well defined, in which the narration was key in making it a success. There wasn't much mystery or page-turning anticipation to this book, yet it was a great story with strong characters.
This was the first full book I have listened to and it convinced me to invest in a year subscription. I love being able to listen intensely while keeping my hands busy with hobbies or housework and not tiring my eyes. I highly reccommend this audible choice. I also recommend listening to the audio sample of any book prior to downloading, for the narrator can make a significant difference in holding your attention. Great job.

49 people found this helpful

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  • Kelly
  • 19-05-2017

Provocative book, Exquisitely read by Jones!

I find it nearly impossible to think that I have lived almost 55 years without having read this beautiful book. In fact, I am not certain that I had ever heard of either Carson McCullers or The Heart is a Lonely Hunter! And now some other book must be shoved off the my top 100 list to make room for this one.

Carson Mccullers at age 23 has the understanding and wisdom that many never achieve. She had a deep insight into the human condition and an ability to write about it with a simple and moving style... something many writers take years to achieve. Her book touched my heart and made me think in the same way the John Steinbeck, John Irving and Pat Conroy do. How does someone so young relate to the darkness, sadness and tragedy of life? How did she understand it so well?

McCullers wrote about sadness... about people who are unhappy with their place in life, who feel isolated and lonely, about unhappiness caused by racism, religion and government. But what she did that touched me more was to allow the reader to feel what the characters felt. If you read books for intricate and complex plot lines you may be disappointed in this book because it is quiet and simple. Not a great deal happens. But if you read books because you like characters and the way they make you feel and think you will love this book.

Oh, and one more thing... the climax of this book is shocking, tragic and will stay with you long after you read it. I will never forget it. McCullers took my heart and ripped it from my chest. Only a few other authors have done that before.

Cherry Jones' narration is perfect. She allowed the reader to grieve alongside the characters. The accents and tones she used were nuanced and restrained. Her narration allowed the book to stand as the painful and biting work that it is meant to be. I will certainly be looking to see what else she has recorded.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Vered
  • 25-02-2009

A Briliantly narrated literary gem

Don't let the "Audible Kids" opening mislead you, despite the fact this title has some "growing up novel" aspects, it's a must read.
Carson McCullers described the human nature and human motivations, through the story of 4 main protagonists struggling in a small town in the south (1930's).
The characters portrayed feel alone in their inner worlds, aspirations, and fears - crave for some understanding - all expose their deepest feelings only to Singer, the deaf mute protagonist, who is unable to reach back to his hearing friends, and feels isolated, being unable to convey his thoughts to those who can't read sign languague.
I should note - that writing down ideas of racial equality, socialism (Marxism), and the need of social reform - in a novel published in 1940, was very brave, notable and ahead of it's time. The discussion of Nazi Germany before all facts were known is very impressive in retrospect.

What can i say -touching, very well written, captivating and highly recommended.

23 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Alan J
  • 31-10-2004

LIked This one

I've never read Carson McCullers but I'd heard of her from reading biographies of other writers from the South, like Capote, Faulkner, and Flannery O'Connor. After finishing this audio I understand why she's in their league. The characters in this book remain with the reader long after the book is finished. If you're expecting a page turner then forget this one. This is a literary novel. It has peaks and valleys. Finish this audio and you'll come away with a better understanding of how humans are connected to one another and why and how they interact. After each chapter I had to keep reminding myself Carson McCullers was just 24 when she wrote this. Incidently, I thought the Narrator did an excellent job. I've enjoyed lots of books since I joined Audio last year, and this narrator I'd place at the top. This was a pleasurable listen and another reason why I think the United State's best writers are from the South.

13 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • M. Ramsour
  • 29-02-2008

Well-drawn characters

The characters in this book were well-drawn, and I think the author got to their core. The narration helped in that regard as each character had his or her own subtle voice.

This is the story of many lonely people who wanted more and were denied. Each life intertwined with the deaf-mute, Mr. Singer, who was ultimately the loneliest in his prison of silence. It's not a book to listen to if you are feeling down, but well worth hearing for the characters and their points of view.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Kevin G. Slavens
  • 17-03-2010

Great Book - Fantastic Narration

Five or so years before she received a well-deserved Best Actress Emmy for her work on 24, Cherry Jones narrated this wonderful piece of American fiction. Her interpretation of all the characters is incredible. One really gets a sense of the emotion of each person portrayed, and, very importantly, in a manner that reflects the time. One note to prospective readers would be to recognize that much of the content is in subtext and various hints rather than overt statements.

10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 04-05-2007

Great performance

Cherry Jones really captured these characters for me. It reminded me of Julie Harris' great performance in the film of McCullers' Member of the Wedding. I was really engaged by the story, and Ms. Jones' reading added a dimension that I wouldn't have experienced if I had been reading it myself. Thank you.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Hugh M. Clarke
  • 29-11-2019

Nothing Much Has Changed

I first read this book over thirty years ago and fell in love with it. It is good to listen to it being read so well by Cherry Jones. The themes of race, injustice, disadvantage, social and economic inequality, are as relevant now as they were then. Her characters are entrancing. The events of the novel are sometimes humorous, sometimes sad and sometimes angering. Seventy years later, we still have racial intolerance and the gap between rich and poor is enormous.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dr.A.P.Berlin
  • 03-07-2016

One of the best books of 20th C - beats mocking bird

Book is beautiful- not just extraordinary as with by a woman in her early twenties - but prescient in issue of race relations and moving beyond words. The central character of the mute Singer and the theme of projections is masterly

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Helen
  • 04-05-2010

A classic

I read this because it's one of those books that is on so many 'all time great classics' lists and I wasn't disappointed.
A fascinating look at race and how it plays out in everyday life in the life of one young girl.

4 people found this helpful

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  • taptoflow
  • 16-09-2021

I had to start several times

The reason I didn't give up during the first chapter was the book's status as a great classic and its intreaguing title. The role of Antonopoulos and Singer's extreme attachment to this unpleasant and selfish character never becomes clear. True, the others don't know what's going on in Singer but Antonopoulos doesn't give a toss either.

I'm not surprised that the book became a literary sensation in 1940 with its unflinching description of poverty, misery, and loneliness in the South. Perhaps it needs to be read again today when the widening scissors of wealth leave so many people in poverty and hopelessness, looking for a more and more violent way out.

I came to enjoy the musings and inner life of Mick and Biff especially. Surprisingly, I didn't find a single review that commented on the tender moments of homoeroticism that McCullers hints at.

In its refusal to offer refuge from the bleakness of life in the South it is a consequent and bleak book. An important read even today but it stretches at times and is therefore not a riveting literary ride. I guess it never set out to be one.

Beautifully read with dramatic and character distinction by Cherry Jones

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  • MN Markantonatos
  • 05-06-2021

A Masterpiece of Human Observation

It is quite extraordinary that this book is written by a 24 year old. Such insight into human nature is rare. A brilliant book beautifully read.

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  • Katie Chapple
  • 20-04-2021

😴 Boring

so unbelievably boring. I hated it. thought it would never end. snore snore snore 😴

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  • simon whitby brown
  • 08-11-2018

An exceptional book, marred only by one thing.

The word ‘shone’ is pronounced as ‘shown’ by the narrator through the book. As this word appears often, this mispronunciation becomes exceptionally irritating.

Other than that, all well.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Karim Khan
  • 14-08-2017

Emotional and gripping.

The was in which McCullers is able to develop a variety of characters within the novels adds a depth to this heart wrenching tale.

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