A fully realized portrait of one woman’s life in all its complexity, by the National Book Award-winning author.
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.
Includes a bonus conversation between Alice McDermott and her editor, Jonathan Galassi.
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Each word chosen like a jewel
I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and "Someone" will be in my Top 15 for certain. I love language and it is apparent from the first paragraph that Ms. McDermott has carefully, lovingly selected each and ever word, the result being a miraculous description of a rather un-miraculous life.
Alice McDermott's writing reminds me of Ann Patchett, and Colin McCann--it's that ability to make magical through prose something we see in everyday life. This book would be a very satisfying read for those who enjoyed McCann's enchanting "Trans-Atlantic."
I thought Ms. Reading did a fine job with all the characters, both female and male. The mark of a great narrator is, in my mind, that she compliments the story she is reading without overshadowing. Ms. Reading did exactly that. Having said that, I encourage everyone to hit the "preview" button to listen before buying. Like music, narrators are often in the eye/ear of the beholder.
For me, Marie is the obvious choice, because this is her story. I just really like books, such as this, that show how someone who's not particularly beautiful, wealthy, brilliant, witty, or a standout in a way that might capture today's reality-TV-addicted world, can make a life of meaning, just by quietly putting one step in front of the other.
The genius of Ms. McDermott is that she has taken a rather ordinary woman, whose life is rather ordinary (heartbreaks, marriage, loss of parents--but no attempts to climb Mt. Everest, the corporate ladder, or the heights of Hollywood). Through her meticulous and lyrical words, she has brought importance to each and every moment of Marie's simple life. Most of us live these types of quiet lives--McDermott allows Marie's to shine. And through Marie, we all shine, as well.
- Annie M.
My favorite Alice McDermott to date.