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They Came From Inner Space: Three Books About Solitude

A woman sitting alone.

Writers are a curious bunch, known for holding court at parties, charming their readers publicly, yet also famously — stereotypically — cranky in the daylight hours. They prefer their own quiet shuffling to any other human noise. I, too, admit a certain tendency toward this peculiar, self-inflicted isolation.

But solitude in characters can be tedious, dull and, worst of all, pretentious. Interiority alone never makes for a compelling novel. In these three books, the characters live not simply alone but forcefully isolated, until a single moment propels them from their places of comfort and silence. And when it does, they must confront a place they've successfully avoided for many years — that is, the world where others reside.

In all three books, the characters tread that quiet space between public and private. They remind us that we always have more to give, even after everything that we inevitably lose in the course of a life. More simply, they also remind us that we can't quite live without one another, after all.

Rachel Louise Snyder is the author of What We've Lost is Nothing.

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Rachel Louise Snyder