In Search of the Middle-Aged Hero?

A friend wrote on Twitter asking where the books with the middle-aged American woman protagonists were, and it, you know, got me to thinking. I mean, first there’s the whole: what about books that move through a person’s life? In Life After Life (admittedly not American), she is 1 then 20 then 40 and so on. The whole shifting reality of age. And also: what is middle aged? If we’re thinking “I was half-way through the journey of my life” type situation, I think life expectancy puts middle aged at 41. Gulp.

But that’s also me being a bit of a jerk (imagine!), because I know what she’s getting at. A lot of novels center on women in the throes of raising (and often losing) children, or in the run-up to all that, and so the part of life when it’s not about…someone/something else seems to slip away.

There is, of course, Sue Miller, whose recent book, Monogamy, feels like it “fits the bill” exactly, except I was so looking forward to reading it, and then it left me cold.

Or maybe, Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman, about an older woman detective, with lots of thrills and chases and all the things I love about detective fiction. This is the first book in a series (I love a series!), and I liked the first one. But there was (to me) something forced about the toughness, and it put me off. (I’m sounding very hard to please here.)

Besides, my guess is that the search is for a “literary” novel, though I am not fond of that term and all its unflattering implications. And of course, of course, the whole thing about literature is that you can read about anyone, any type of person, and connect.

But, too, it is a weird feeling to vanish from a culture. Do any of you know of any American novels centering on middle-aged or (gasp!) older protagonists? If you don’t, why do you think that is?

2 thoughts on “In Search of the Middle-Aged Hero?

  1. Is Olive Kitteridge too old? And they’re not exactly “literary,” but I think Rosamunde Pilcher’s books fit the bill – especially Shell Seekers, and September. I am finding it very hard to think of many that work though!


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