#6Degrees of Separation: From Ethan Frome to The Deal of a Lifetime

December 4, 2021

#6Degrees of Separation: Ethan Frome to The Deal of a Lifetime

#6Degrees of Separation from Ethan Frome to The Deal of a Lifetime (collage of covers)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Male Protagonists and Their Yearnings For

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Making connections between books is challenging, creative, and fun! Honestly, I haven’t participated in this meme since last May because I haven’t felt a connection to the chosen books. Even though I have complicated feelings about Ethan Frome, I’m all in this month!

Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:

  • Link the books together in any way you like.
  • Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
  • Share these rules in your post.
  • Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
  • Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
  • Share your post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hashtag.
  • Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.

Play Along?

This month’s prompt starts with Ethan Frome, and even though I didn’t love the story because it was rather bleak, I have an idea for a chain that features…

“Male Protagonists and Their Yearnings For…”

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know how I absolutely fall in love with my characters! If I don’t feel that connection it’s difficult to recommend the book. Inspired by Ethan, all the male characters in my chain are yearning/searching for something. I also need you to notice that I worked TWO Fredrik Backman titles into this post….a master of memorable characters.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (cover) Image:Even though Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is beautifully written and has received high praise, I didn’t like the ending of the story which significantly affected my overall star rating of 3 Stars. I did like the main character, Ethan, though (until the end) and he did inspire me to think about other male protagonists who are searching for something. Ethan is pining/yearning for his soul mate and one true love.

Amazon Summary:

“The classic novel of despair, forbidden emotions, and sexual undercurrents set against the austere New England countryside.

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a hired girl, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.

In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio toward their tragic destinies. Different in both tone and theme from Wharton’s other works, Ethan Frome has become perhaps her most enduring and most widely read book.”

Jaber Crow by Wendell Berry (cover) Image: white text on a maroon background plus the graphic picture os a wide river cutting through rolling hillsFIRST DEGREE. From Ethan Frome, it’s an easy leap to another male protagonist, Jayber from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. A similar story and similar desires in some ways, Jayber yearns for an unobtainable younger woman and shares Ethan’s burden of loneliness and desire. However, Jayber Crow is a more satisfying story.

Amazon Summary: “Orphaned at age ten, Jayber Crow’s acquaintance with loneliness and want have made him a patient observer of the human animal, in both its goodness and frailty.

He began his search as a “pre–ministerial student” at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself. But the beginning of that finding was a short conversation with “Old Grit,” his profound professor of New Testament Greek.

“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time.”

“And how long is that going to take?”

“I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.”

“That could be a long time.”

“I will tell you a further mystery,” he said. “It may take longer.”

Wendell Berry’s clear–sighted depiction of humanity’s gifts—love and loss, joy and despair—is seen though his intimate knowledge of the Port William Membership.”

Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler (cover) Image: a man runs on the street with a cityscape in the backgroundSECOND DEGREE: Although he doesn’t fully realize it at first, another story of a man’s yearning for a soulmate is Micah in Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler.

Amazon Summary:Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. A self-employed tech expert, superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building, cautious to a fault behind the steering wheel, he seems content leading a steady, circumscribed life.

But one day his routines are blown apart when his woman friend (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a “girlfriend”) tells him she’s facing eviction, and a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son. These surprises, and the ways they throw Micah’s meticulously organized life off-kilter, risk changing him forever.

An intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who finds those around him just out of reach, and a funny, joyful, deeply compassionate story about seeing the world through new eyes, Redhead by the Side of the Road is a triumph, filled with Anne Tyler’s signature wit and gimlet-eyed observation.”

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (cover) Image:THIRD DEGREE: Moving away from a man’s yearning for a woman, my next link in the chain is to John in Gilead by Marilynne Robinson who is concerned about the legacy he will leave to his young son. He yearns to leave a lasting and memorable legacy.

My Summary: “Pulitzer Prize 2005. New York Times Top-Ten Book of 2004. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Marilynne Robinson writes the quiet story of three generations of fathers and sons. faith, and rural life.

Gilead is character-driven and written with the intent of understanding the world and exploring the meaning of life. I consider Gilead an excellent example of Literary Fiction. Even though Gilead takes place in the past, I think it’s a story that could have taken place in any setting because the focus is on a father’s legacy to his son and themes like love, legacy, and faith are timeless.

My review of Gilead here.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (cover) Image: a man with a cat brushing against his legs stands in an open field with his back to the cameraFOURTH DEGREE: Connecting to the strong theme of male protagonists who are yearning for something is Ove from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman who yearns for his deceased wife and companionship.

Amazon Summary: “Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.”

But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down” (Booklist, starred review).”

The Unlikely Pilgrimmage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (cover)FIFTH DEGREE: Let’s continue the theme of male protagonists who are yearning for something with Harold from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Harold yearns for something more practical: he yearns to deliver a message in person to his good friend, Queenie.

My Summary: “Harold Fry is recently retired and lives in a small English village with his wife. After a long marriage, they have their differences but have settled into an amicable, predictable, and manageable daily routine. One day, a letter arrives for Harold from a woman (former co worker) that he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie is writing from a hospice to say goodbye. In the process of mailing his reply, Harold decides that he must deliver his message in person and decides to walk. As Harold impulsively sets out on his quest, he figures out the logistics of the six hundred mile journey as he goes. On the way he meets interesting people, finds plenty of time to reflect back on his life, and confronts some unsettling thoughts and feelings that he has buried.”

My review of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry here.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman (cover) Image: a large blue suitcase sits on a wood floor and against the wall....a straw hat is propped on one corner of the suitcase and a white toy bunny lies on the floor next to the suitcaseSIXTH DEGREE: The final link in the chain is one final story of yearning from  The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman. The male protagonist is ambitious, famous, rich, powerful, and egotistical. The father yearns to make things right at the end of his life and like John in Gilead is concerned about the legacy he will leave his son.

My Summary: In true Backman style, The Deal of a Lifetime is an intricately woven story (novella) of an unlovable, complex, and flawed character whom we begin to understand and care about as he faces the end of his life. Written as the last message from father to son and told like a fairy tale for adults, it’s a story of a legacy, ambition and success at all costs, fear of failure, the meaning of life, the commodity of time, an accounting of one’s life, and a father/son relationship. I hesitate to give details of the plot in this summary because I don’t want to spoil your read. Briefly, it’s the story of a successful and famous man in the mid-years of his life counting the personal cost of his achievements and striking a last deal to make things right.”

My brief review of The Deal of a Lifetime here.

I hope you enjoyed this #6Degrees of Separation chain from Ethan Frome to The Deal of a Lifetime!

The most striking thread that connects the stories in this chain is male characters who yearn for something. I have read all these books and can recommend them all! (although I didn’t enjoy the ending of Ethan Frome)

I need to note that these are the first six books I thought to connect. Many stories are out there that could also fit this chain. Can you think of another title that features male protagonists who are yearning for something?


January #6Degrees of Separation post here.
February #6Degrees of Separation post here.
May #6Degrees of Separation post here.

If you have a December #6Degrees of Separation post, please leave a link in the comments!


Do you have ideas for creating your own chain?
What book would you add to this chain?
Have you read one of these stories?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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  1. I’m sure the books I read have some connections somewhere, but I never seem to be able to find them. I’ll have to pay more attention to what I’m reading to find those connections. Great list, I’ve found a couple of new to me books for my TBR, thanks Carol.

  2. I’m the odd bird who shies away, in general, from books with male protagonists. But I’ve recently found that I am interested in reading something by Wendell Berry. Thanks for highlighting one of his books here.

  3. Ha! A Man called Ove appears in my chain, and I was quite underwhelmed by this book. Did you read it? I wasn’t sure. Harold Fry was another such book, though he hasn’t appeared in any of my chains yet. Both Tyler and Robinson are more my cup of tea, though I haven’t read either of these.

  4. Well done, my friend! It has been a while since I did a single themed chain, but… the January chain is going to be like that. As you know, I’ve read most of these books.

    • Thanks Davida! My brain seems to work I best in themes! But I started thinking about January and started a chain in the more traditional way! We’ll see!

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