An ordinary life - its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion - lived by an ordinary woman: this is the subject of Someone, Alice McDermott's extraordinary return, seven years after the publication of After This. Scattered recollections - of childhood, adolescence, motherhood, old age - come together in this transformative narrative, stitched into a vibrant whole by McDermott's deft, lyrical voice.
Our first glimpse of Marie is as a child: a girl in glasses waiting on a Brooklyn stoop for her beloved father to come home from work. A seemingly innocuous encounter with a young woman named Pegeen sets the bittersweet tone of this remarkable novel. Pegeen describes herself as an "amadan," a fool; indeed, soon after her chat with Marie, Pegeen tumbles down her own basement stairs. The magic of McDermott's novel lies in how it reveals us all as fools for this or that, in one way or another.
Marie's first heartbreak and her eventual marriage; her brother's brief stint as a Catholic priest, subsequent loss of faith, and eventual breakdown; the Second World War; her parents' deaths; the births and lives of Marie's children; the changing world of her Irish-American enclave in Brooklyn - McDermott sketches all of it with sympathy and insight. This is a novel that speaks of life as it is daily lived; a crowning achievement by one of the finest American writers at work today.
I have to admit that there were times when Someone read as a bit of a cautionary tale—"do not live your life in such a passive, apathetic way." At the same time, it is thoroughly validating and lovely to know that upon examination, even an unexceptional life, no matter how ordinary, is of value. (Reviewed by Sharry Wright).
Starred Review. [A] deceptively simple tour de force... in her hands, an uncomplicated life becomes singularly fascinating, revealing the heart of a woman whose defeats make us ache and whose triumphs we cheer.
Starred Review. A marvel of subtle modulations, McDermott's keenly observed, fluently humane, quietly enthralling novel of conformity and selfhood, of "lace-curtain pretensions" as shield and camouflage, celebrates family, community, and "the grace of a shared past.
Starred Review. While McDermott's is a quiet style, fans of her earlier work will be thrilled to come across this simple, bittersweet story that will find appeal among readers of Alice Munro and Ann Patchett.
Starred Review. [O]ne of the author's most trenchant explorations into the heart and soul of the 20th-century Irish-American family.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by thewanderingjew From beginning to end, a wonderful journey. The reader will not want this book to end. It is such a marvelous, easy to read story told through Marie’s memories as she looks back over the years recalling the things that were meaningful in her life. It is told in an uncomplicated, simple,... Read More
Reading quiet, literary fiction, like Someone, nudges us towards contemplation and self-examination. But according to a recent study conducted at the New School for Social Research in New York, it may do even more. This much-publicized study, "Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind," concludes that reading literary fiction can better the ability to "read" the thoughts and feelings of others. The researchers, Ph.D candidate David Comer Kidd; and professor of psychology, Emanuele Castano; suggest that this is achieved by an increase in empathy and the ability to recognize and share the feelings of others.
But first, perhaps, we should try to define the somewhat ambiguous line between literary and popular fiction. Castano outlines the difference this way: Popular fiction tends to focus on plot, and characters tend to be more stereotypical—the hero and the antagonist are clear-cut from the beginning, while "literary fiction focuses on the psychology and inner life of the characters." In literary fiction, the characters are both more complex and less...
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A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...