A teenaged sleuth, an octogenarian locksmith, a widowed book translator—what do these three have in common? They're all lonely and alone, for starters. And it's not only them—almost every character in The History of Love feels isolated from those around them and is trying to find a way to cope with that sense of separation. The fact that most of the story occurs in New York City, a place filled with millions upon millions of people, suggests that this feeling of loneliness can't be cured by simple human interaction—it's much deeper than that. Even though the novel contains quite a few attempts to connect with others, ultimately what brings our heroes together are circumstances almost totally outside of their control.
Questions About Loneliness
Why does Leo create an imaginary Bruno to keep him company? How does our realization that Bruno actually died a long time ago affect our view of Leo?
How can Alma possibly be surprised to learn she doesn't have any friends?
How is Leo's life in his apartment connected to his years spent hiding from the Nazis?
We meet Leo within the Litvinoff chapters, when they're both living in Minsk, but we meet Leo only briefly at the time, and learn hardly anything about him. What do you imagine his life to be like at that time? Do you picture him as lonely as he ends up being in New York?
Chew on This
Leo, Litvinoff, and Charlotte Singer prove that loneliness and isolation are unavoidable components of the immigrant experience (sad).
Although Alma's mother learned languages to bring her close to others, they have only served to reinforce her isolation from the world (double-sad).