Feb 12, 2015
Review: We Are Not Ourselves
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.
When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.
Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.
Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.
Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.
First of all, he is your son!!! Not "the boy" & you actually gave him a name!! OK. now that I have that out of my system. I recall my own dad calling me "girl child" & it was actually meant as a term of endearment in a not so huggy, touchy, lovie family, so I can get that.
I was given this book free for an honest review & I honestly did not think the book would ever end. (AT FIRST) Once I began getting close to the end, I dreaded it. At times I strongly disliked the main character Eileen, but understood and admired her at other times. She was a very realistic character.... After all who is actually perfect? Do we not all have faults and sort comings, weaknesses, and strengths?
I think the hardest things to digest about the book is the fact that I could relate to quite a bit of it, good and bad ... How the characters sometimes felt, behaved & later regretted their behavior. I absolutely loved Eileen's husband Ed, but how could I not love his loyalty, humor, and later hopelessness. The struggles faced with an Alzheimer's family member is something I have never personally been through; my family dies of cancer long before their brain deteriorates like the man I this book. In places I would be in tears from what the mother (wife) & son were going through (as well as Ed's struggle with losing control of his life, yet still being aware enough to feel like a burden). There are several situations where Ed is at himself enough to be humorous when they are trying to "calm him" by telling him things that aren't exactly accurate.
I loved Eileen's determination to work herself into a better situation in life, and despite getting a lot of hard hits, I still respected her at the end (even mores since she did not just send Ed away when things got hard). She did not take the easy way out, and that still gains respect from some people. At first their teen son is a snot (not dealing well with losing his father eventhough his father is physically still there), but he grows too as the story (years) go on.
I have actually gotten a little teary recalling this LONG story. There is a lot of detail about Eileen's childhood - her adulthood - even her son's maturity into adulthood. Generations span, ideas change and evolve as life goes on. The story just would not have been the same nor had the same effect without what at times seems like a lot of pointless detil. As I was reading, I wished it would move on, but if it had passed more quickly with less detail the experience would not have been as meaningful in the end.
Not a quick read, but I will never forget it. So many feelings and understandings brought to life. I hope this book is around for many generations to enjoy.
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