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Summary and book reviews of Mimi Malloy, At Last! by Julia MacDonnell

Mimi Malloy, At Last!

by Julia MacDonnell

Mimi Malloy, At Last!
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2014, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2015, 288 pages

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Book Summary

Mimi Malloy, At Last! is an unforgettable novel, alive with humor, unexpected romance, and the magic of hard-earned insight: a poignant reminder that it's never too late to fall in love and that one can always come of age a second time.

Meet Mimi Malloy: A daughter of the Great Depression, Mimi was born into an Irish-Catholic brood of seven, and she has done her best to raise six beautiful daughters of her own. Now they're grown, and Mimi, a divorcée, is unexpectedly retired. But she takes solace in the comforts of her new life: her apartment in the heart of Quincy, the occasional True Blue cigarette, and an evening with Frank Sinatra on the stereo and a highball in her hand. Yet her phone is arguably the busiest in greater Boston - it rings "Day In, Day Out," as Ol' Blue Eyes would say. Her surviving sisters love to gab about their girlhood, while her eldest, Cassandra, calls every morning to preach the gospel of assisted living. And when an MRI reveals that Mimi's brain is filled with black spots - areas of atrophy, her doctor says - it looks like that's exactly where she's headed, to spend her days in "a storage facility for unwanted antiques."

Mimi knows her mind is (more or less) as sharp as ever, and she won't go down without a fight. As she prepares to take her stand, she stumbles upon an old pendant of her mother's and, slowly, her memory starts to return - specifically, recollections of a shocking and painful childhood, a sister who was sent away to Ireland, and the wicked stepmother she swore to forget.

Out of the ashes of Mimi's deeply troubled history, Julia MacDonnell gives us a redemptive story of the family bonds that break us and remake us. Mimi Malloy, At Last! is an unforgettable novel, alive with humor, unexpected romance, and the magic of hard-earned insight - a poignant reminder that it's never too late to fall in love and that one can always come of age a second time.

One
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

I'm at my table by the window, watching, without wanting to, other tenants rush off to work, bundled up against the frigid morning—running to catch the T, or starting their cars, warming them up in the parking lot before they take off for offices, stores, banks, schools, hospitals, wherever, just the way I used to, not so long ago. The only work I'm doing now is on my first cup, Maxwell House Master Blend, and a True Blue, lit with the last match from a splint book picked up at Grab & Go. I'm enjoying the first drag, if not the scenery, when, like an alarm, my phone rings. I check the time. Just past eight. I let it ring a few more times. It's got to be Cassandra, my firstborn. This time of day, she works on her to-do list, at the top of which is my name, my life, her plans to make it better scribbled underneath.

"Mimi, there's an open house tomorrow at that new seniors' complex, Squantum River Living." She's ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Note to book-clubs: of course we know you like to drink and snack while discussing a book. Please note that Mimi Malloy likes highballs, boxed chardonnay, Bloody Marys, coffee, salted nuts, donuts (vanilla creme with powdered sugar). Feel free to enjoy any of these (with a Sinatra record, if you like) for extra atmosphere while you have your group!

1. Mimi inhabits many female roles: homemaker, mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, wife, and girlfriend. Which of these roles are most important to her? Which are positive, negative, or both?

2. As narrator, Mimi speaks to the reader in a vernacular, funny, sometimes salty tone about her past, her family, her life. Why do you think this narrative voice is effective?

3. Mimi has been ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Julia MacDonnell's novel, Mimi Malloy At Last held me captive from the first page. I often found myself losing track of time, reading late into the night. The novel, while set in present day New England takes us back to Mimi's long forgotten childhood trauma, repressed as a survival instinct that will no longer be denied resolution. This novel has earned a place on my read again bookshelf.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (731 words).

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

A mostly charming story of feisty women reconnecting and healing old wounds, but this has a few uncomfortably disturbing secrets at its core.

Publishers Weekly

The novel's dialogue, family dynamics, and voice are all strong; its plot and resolution could use work.

Booklist

Humorous and poignant… MacDonnell captures perfectly the family dynamics between sisters, mothers, and daughters, as if she were sitting in on their gab sessions, taking copious notes. For readers who enjoy Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher, this is a highly engaging family chronicle, with a healthy dose of Irish history laced in as well.

Library Journal

Lightened by her sharp wit, feisty Mimi's saga is a sometimes troubling but ultimately triumphant tale of aging, the Boston Irish immigrant experience, and redemption. MacDonnell's first novel in 20 years (after A Year of Favor) will appeal to anyone who loves a good story with a strong heroine.

Author Blurb Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of Ladies' Night
This is a novel of such heart and hope - and, yes, humor. I wouldn't trust anybody who couldn't fall for Mimi Malloy, At Last!

Author Blurb Molly Peacock, author of The Paper Garden.
I gulped down Julia MacDonnell's juicy novel of revealed memories and startling characters...Mimi proves that some revelations take living long enough to have. Extraordinary.

Author Blurb Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author
Mimi Malloy, At Last! is funny, wise, and devastating.

Author Blurb Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow
The end of life becomes an unexpected beginning in Julia MacDonnell's moving, funny masterpiece about love, memory, and the family ties we sometimes need to untangle. Absolutely captivating.

Author Blurb Hilary Boyd, author of Thursdays in the Park
Julia MacDonnell's fluent writing beautifully observes the iniquities of old age and the complexities of family. But also the benefits of both. What a wonderful book.

Author Blurb Sally Koslow, author of The Widow Waltz and The Late, Lamented Molly Marx
A love letter to sisterhood, Frank Sinatra, late-in-life romance, and the enduring ties of family.

Author Blurb Katharine Davis, author of Capturing Paris and A Slender Thread
With sensitivity and humor, Julia MacDonnell paints a rich and engrossing family portrait in this delectable novel.

Reader Reviews
Cecile G. (Mansfield, TX)

Mimi Malloy at Last
Always looking for characters who make me laugh , I have enjoyed Mimi Malloy at Last, Julia MacDonnell's book featuring a senior citizen who craves her independence. Mimi is looking at her past and trying to understand her Irish-Catholic father and...   Read More

Rita K. (Bannockburn, IL)

At Last Closure for Mimi Malloy
At first I couldn't make up my mind whether or not I liked Mimi. In the beginning she sounded like "poor me", but as the book progressed, you understood why. Her father whom she adored was very weak. He always overlook how cruel the stepmother was ...   Read More

Susan M. (Ashland, OR)

Mimi Malloy At Last
This well written book teaches the reader to listen and look for stories. It is so easy to judge Mimi brushing her off as a contrary old woman. We learn of her black holes of memories as she struggles to revisit her painful childhood. Her evil ...   Read More

Jan T. (Leona Valley, CA)

You will fall in love with Mimi Malloy!
Julia MacDonell's Mimi Malloy at Last is heartwarming - both wise and humorous. You will get to know all her present and past relatives. The most touching are the family dynamics between Mimi and her daughters. There is also a dash of Irish whimsy...   Read More

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Coming of Autumn

Autumn of Age. Isn't that a beautiful phrase? It conjures the image of magenta and orange leaves falling from trees, and the landscape preparing to take stock for a season, quietly hunkering down, stripping itself of the old, and getting ready for the new.

Autumn in New HampshireIn the First Impressions Review of Mimi Malloy At Last, by Julia MacDonnell, one reviewer offered this: "We read Coming of Age books, but this is the opposite. This book is the Autumn of Age." And it really is! Mimi Malloy grew up in the Great Depression. She has six grown daughters, is divorced, and has recently retired. She is in her 60s, well past the typical coming of age age, and yet it is at this moment in time – just when her own wind is blowing and she, like the ...

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