BookBrowse Reviews I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

I Found My Tribe

A Memoir

by Ruth Fitzmaurice

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice X
I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 224 pages

    Mar 2019, 224 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book



A heartbreaking memoir of love and loss chronicling a young mother's struggles to cope with her husband's disability and impending death.

Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her last name to her husband's, Ruth, along with Simon, pictured a fairy-tale life in the Irish countryside. They lived a romantic existence in a cottage with "rolling hills and apple trees," and had three children together before Simon was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) just four years later. Those afflicted by the incurable and fatal disease, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease in the United States, gradually lose motor function until all bodily systems fail. Ruth Fitzmaurice's memoir, I Found My Tribe, chronicles her emotional journey as Simon becomes completely paralyzed and eventually succumbs to his illness.

As Simon's condition worsens, the couple decide to return to Greystones, Simon's hometown on the Irish coast. It is here that Ruth discovers her love of the ocean and finds friends who help her cope, forming what she calls The Tragic Wives' Club – her "tribe" of women who have also experienced loss. Together they dive into the ocean on a near-daily basis year-round, as a way to bond and, for a few minutes, forget the realities of their lives and just be.

I look at my friends coping and surviving. Like the rolling of waves, the thrill of the dive, the rush of cold, they choose to stay unchained. This is as free as we can all possibly be…Swims like this clean the cobwebs from my mind, like clearing the laundry basket with a good run of hot washes. I am a woman restored.

Fitzmaurice's writing is at its best as she pours her pain into her prose, which at times reads like poetry:

We live our lives in fragments and that's just the way it is. Clocks circling time have little meaning for me. From days and months to moments, fragments of time swing solely between good and bad. I never dare to presume, beyond a hunch, what is coming next…I feel sadness on a deep level, deeper than skin and veins and death. Clock hands circling time are overwhelming and endless.

The book is laid out in short chapters, each loosely held together by a theme, throughout which the author ruminates on a specific aspect of her life. For example, in a section called "Bed," Ruth's narrative moves from her first encounter with Simon at a drinks-heavy student party, waking up next to him on a couch; to the day their "marital bed became a hospital contraption" with "multiple tilts and reclining functions" to make Simon more comfortable. Eventually Ruth decides to leave their bed because she can't sleep with all the electronic beeps and whirrs of the equipment needed to keep her husband alive. The text has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it that renders it raw and honest. It can also be a bit confusing, as it's not always clear which period of their lives is being discussed at any one moment.

The memoir focuses primarily on Fitzmaurice herself, specifically her internal struggles as she remembers the good times and grieves over what their lives have become and how Simon's illness has impacted their children. It's heartbreaking reading her pain as she tries – unsuccessfully – to explain to her four-year-old daughter why her father can't go back to "the old Dadda" who walked and talked.

Interestingly, using an eye-gaze computer (see 'Beyond the Book') as his sole means of communication, Simon wrote a memoir of his own, It's Not Yet Dark and wrote and directed a film, achievements that are only glancingly touched upon in this book. Ruth's memoir also has very little to say about her communication with Simon as the disease progresses. One assumes they would continue to "talk," but there's little here about their interaction.

I Found My Tribe is a beautiful, haunting work throughout which Fitzmaurice bares her soul. Readers who enjoy memoirs will likely find this a must-read and book groups will discover multiple topics to discuss within its pages.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2018, and has been updated for the April 2019 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Eye-Gaze Computers


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked I Found My Tribe, try these:

We have 12 read-alikes for I Found My Tribe, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

BookBrowse Sale!

Join BookBrowse and discover exceptional books for just $3/mth!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Fraud
    The Fraud
    by Zadie Smith
    In a recent article for The New Yorker, Zadie Smith joked that she moved away from London, her ...
  • Book Jacket: Wasteland
    by Oliver Franklin-Wallis
    Globally, we generate more than 2 billion tons of household waste every year. That annual total ...
  • Book Jacket: Disobedient
    by Elizabeth Fremantle
    Born in Rome in 1593, Artemisia Gentileschi led a successful career as an artist throughout the ...
  • Book Jacket: Valiant Women
    Valiant Women
    by Lena S. Andrews
    When Peggy Carter first appeared on the screen in Marvel's Captain America, my reaction was, "Oh, ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Fair Rosaline
by Natasha Solomons
A subversive, powerful untelling of Romeo and Juliet by New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The September House
    by Carissa Orlando

    A dream home becomes a haunted nightmare in this compulsively readable, twisty, and layered debut novel.

  • Book Jacket

    Digging Stars
    by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

    Blending drama and satire, Digging Stars probes the emotional universes of love, friendship, family, and nationhood.

Win This Book
Win Moscow X

25 Copies to Give Away!

A daring CIA operation threatens chaos in the Kremlin. But can Langley trust the Russian at its center?



Solve this clue:

A M I A Terrible T T W

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.