Alone follows the unnamed narrator and his boyfriend Daniel as their relationship disintegrates. While trying to cope with the end of the relationship, the narrator reflects on his childhood, contemplates the nature of loneliness, reflects on how the internet and hookup apps have changed modern courtship, and feels nostalgia for the days of public cruising.
“I’ve seen enough people leave to know when they’re not coming back.”
Alone is one of the most affecting and emotionally heavy book that I’ve read in recent memory. I couldn’t help but compare it to Moore’s prior novel, In Their Arms. In that book, the narrator was practically anhedonic and a major part of the book was him scrapping just to feel something and have even the vaguest connection to another person. In Alone, the narrator is overburdened by his emotions and his sense of loneliness. Rather than seeking connection, he’s more trying to learn to cope with and love being alone.
The book is told in a non-linear faction, often times ending a chapter in the middle of a scene and picking up again. The book begins with Daniel leaving the narrator and the rest of the book recounts the last days of their time together. Some chapters consist of snippets of conversations, both in person and online.
One of the most striking scenes is when the narrator recalls his first day in preschool. He had been adopted as a baby from an abusive household and was aware of this from a very young age. When his adopted mother drops him off, the teacher jokingly says that he’s going to be his mom for the day. This causes him to believe that he’s being given up and adopted again and he violently lashes out. From a very young age, he believed that he had no real connection to anyone, he could be easily given up, and he had no idea how to handle this.
The narrator observes longing by others and how he is longed for by others. Some of the chapters consist of Grindr messages he’s received calling him “daddy” and sending multiple messages when he doesn’t respond. He also reads reviews of a male escort and comes across one reviewer who obviously has deep feelings for the escort and leaves increasingly desperate messages in his reviews when he’s not able to contact him. At one point the narrator has a profoundly unsatisfying hookup with a man being stalked by his ex-boyfriend. This results in him receiving threatening messages. There’s a sense the narrator is torn between wishing he could feel this deeply for another person and relief that he doesn’t become that desperate.
The way media, social media especially, effects relationships is a major concern of the book. At one point the narrator asks, “Has Grindr killed psychic gay powers?” He reflects how, before hookup apps, gay men had to go cruising in places like public parks. He saw a beauty and subtlety in cruising while hookup apps are too forward and impersonal to him. While finding who was looking for sex, he felt as if seeing the subtle movements and looks in other men’s faces was almost a type of power that is now gone.
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Alone is a beautifully written, power meditation on the nature of loneliness and relationships in the 21st century. Of the books I've read from Thomas Moore, this is certainly his best. I highly recommend this novel and I very much look forward to Moore's future work.
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