Micah lives by rules. In his head a traffic god applauds his impeccable braking and strict adherence to speed limits. He has a rigid, self-imposed regimen for chores. For example: kitchen on Thursday, including cleaning out one cupboard in rotation. Not surprisingly, Micah lives alone.

What interests Anne Tyler is how people, especially those ossified into habits with age — Micah is in his forties — will sacrifice intimacy, warmth and the possibility of love for these rules. “Living with someone full time was just too messy,” Micah concludes. When an early girlfriend left him to rescue wolves in Montana his internal voice cried: “Free again! Free of all that fuss and bother.”

The eponymous redhead by the roadside is, in fact, a painted fire