Summary and book reviews of Charming Billy by Alice McDermott

Charming Billy

by Alice McDermott

Charming Billy
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  • First Published:
    Jan 1998, 280 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 1999, 243 pages

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Book Summary

Tells the story of the late Billy Lynch within the complex matrix of a tightly knit Irish American community, in a voice that is resonant and filled with deep emotion.

In a fierce, witty, haunting novel--a masterpiece about the unbreakable bonds of memory and desire--the National Book Award-nominated author of "That Night" tells the story of the late Billy Lynch within the complex matrix of a tightly knit Irish American community, in a voice that is resonant and filled with deep emotion.

Chapter One

SOMEWHERE IN THE BRONX, only twenty minutes or so from the cemetery, Maeve found a small bar-and-grill in a wooded alcove set well off the street that was willing to serve the funeral party of forty-seven medium-rare roast beef and boiled potatoes and green beans amandine, with fruit salad to begin and vanilla ice cream to go with the coffee. Pitchers of beer and of iced tea would be placed along the table at intervals and the bar left open--it being a regular business day--for anyone who wanted a drink.

The place was at the end of a sloping driveway that started out as macadam but quickly diminished to dirt and gravel. There was an apron of dirt and gravel in front of the building, potholed, and on the day of the funeral filled with puddles, and the first ten cars parked here, including the black limousine Maeve had ridden in. The others parked up along the drive, first along one side, then the other the members of the funeral party walking in their fourth ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
This guide is intended to enrich your experience of reading Alice McDermott's Charming Billy. This powerful novel by the acclaimed author of At Weddings and Wakes presents a moving and wryly ironic portrait of Billy Lynch, a charming but enigmatic man, and his extended Irish-American family during the years between World War II and the 1990s.

The family and friends assembled at Billy's funeral remember him with fond exasperation. A self-destructive alcoholic who drank himself into a premature grave, Billy caused much grief to his friends and his gentle, devoted wife, Maeve; yet everyone loved him for his charming and affectionate nature. His friends are aware that as a young ex-GI Billy had fallen in love with and become engaged ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Alida Becker

Alice McDermott's eloquent and unsettling new novel begins with a death--and a distinctly inconvenient resurrection.... Like its title character, McDermott's novel works on our sympathies with an insistent and ingratiating charm.

Library Journal

With carefully drawn character studies and gentle probing, McDermott, who won the National Book Award for this work, masterfully weaves a subtle but tenacious web of relationships to explore the devastation of alcoholism, the loss of innocence, the daily practice of love, and the redeeming unity of family and friendship.

Kirkus Reviews

A softly resonant and nostalgic tale told so masterfully, so movingly, that it seems to distill a human essence on virtually every page.

Reader Reviews

Sarah Morin

Charming Billy is an enchanting book, a man loved by everyone driving himself to alcoholism. Is wonderful wife Mauve who has been there all the way for him. He was an aspiring Poet and loved being with his many friends. He made his living working in ...   Read More

Paul

Charming while being Disarming
I found this book in a 2nd hand store in Gladstone, New South Wales (Australia). The owner of the store said a friend had sent it to her from America. I read it and it reminded me of my alcoholic and dysfunctional uncles who have passed away, while ...   Read More

Mary Sue

Wasn't able to get past page 50

Clare

I kept hoping it would get better and read all the way to the end. It didn't get better and I wasted my time.

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