Nice things said by reviewers:

Emma is a winner — a book of enormous charm, full of sharp, often acid, character sketches, memorable scenes, alternately touching and uproariously funny, that linger in the memory–and told in a narrative style so cunningly paced and organized that it is difficult to believe this is really the work of a first-time writer… One of the most promising fictional debuts in many years.”  — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“With a polished assurance rare in a first novel… Wilton Barnhardt unreels flashy scene after scene in convincing detail and sharp snappy dialogue… Emma Who Saved My Life is the kind of shooting star that will make readers watch the skies eagerly for Barnhardt’s next one.” —Washington Post Book World

“One of the most delightful first novels this side of paradise… As a story about people and things they do when they actually live, Emma Who Saved My Life is one of the richest, most rewarding novels of recent years” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A big, funny, engaging, unsentimental, and sometimes even wise book.” — New York Post

The hometown paper–where I used to intern!–weighs in:

“…It’s hard to say where the cutting should have been done. But somebody should have done it somewhere.  As Barnhardt’s mother, Mary Barnhardt of Winston-Salem, said in a recent interview, “[Wilton] would never used one word when two would do.’  Part of the problem is there’s no real plot…  And people who like commas will think this book is great.” — R.K. Underwood, Winston-Salem Journal

“I was absolutely crazy about this book in the late 80’s and early 90’s and reread it in ’08 to see if it was as good as I remembered. Everything I’d loved about it – Gil’s love affair with NYC, his infatuation with Emma, an overall feeling of hopefulness and youth – was as fresh as ever. I’m sure I’ll read this book in another five, ten, fifteen years and still feel the same way I did about it when I first read it in 1989.” –C.K. on

Emma Who Saved My Life totally RULES… I still live in New York (year six), and it becomes an even larger cesspool of completely vile nastiness with each passing year.  I’m getting out, yet your closing certainly made me think twice. I mean, it really is a festering hole, and yet, ah who the hell knows…” –a letter from A.M., writer, New Yorker, tough mass transit bitch

“This book saved my life. I remember pulling it out of a box of books addressed to ‘Any Soldier’ during the 1st Gulf War. The portrayal of NYC in the wild 70s was a thrilling romp and a ton of fun. The unrequited love story appealed to the Romantic in me and made me long for a day I could enjoy a life like Gil’s.” –J.J. on

“I give this as a gift to all my actor former boyfriends…” –Jill on

“…I was wondering if Emma was ever pursued as a film. I’m sure many people would find it impossible to adapt to the screen, but those characters deserve to be there.”
–Toni in Los Angeles

Oh my.  Nine different productions companies, two options, a non-binding partnership with some wonderful filmmakers (a shout out to Bob and Penney!) that got me a parking space at Columbia, the attendant at the studio gate tipping his cap, “The Poitier Building is right that way, Mr. Barnhardt.” The Emma movie seemed to come together a dozen times… always to evaporate.  I’ll let Hollywood in on a little secret: it’s actually VERY tough to adapt on close inspection.  Ten years in a one-hundred-page script?  That’s roughly ten minutes of film-time per year… so you start cutting, conflating, blending scenes together… well, you see quickly what a jumble it becomes.  I think it should be a hand-held low budget indie film made in New York with New York theater/non-celebrity actors, but I’m just the author.  A game played for years by my friends has been to miscast all my books in horrible Hollywood adaptations.  This is in part to buffer myself for when they really do it…

“If you were in college in the ’70s I know you’ll agree with me that Emma captured the essence of that time better than anything ever written – ever. This is my favorite novel. It amazes me how often I find people who share the same opinion because Wilton Barnhardt is not so well known. This gifted writer should stop teaching and keep writing!”  –A.H.M. on

From your mouth to God’s ears!!