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Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.
When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.
Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son, Connell, try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.
Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell one another so before the moment slips away.
Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Yolkut on 01-12-15
This book was absurdly depressing. The first half was a little on the sad side, but manageable and then - WHAM - the second half makes you slog through the most depressing book ever. This title should come with a warning!!!!
Granted, it's fabulous writing, but for me it wasn't worth it!!!
23 of 26 people found this review helpful
By Paula on 11-29-14
Profound Narrative of FantisizingTragedy, Regret
In this narrative story, there is no great mystery to resolve, no thrilling moments of climax. If these are things you need in a story, don't select this one. However, if you enjoy life stories and how the characters in these stories chart the direction of their lives, this is one you won't want to miss. Matthew Thomas has written a really good novel.
This is a narrative (well performed by Mare Winningham) about a girl who works hard, has many life challenges and fantasizes about her future. As a woman, she cannot seem to stop the fantasizing about what might be in order to enjoy her present life. She is perpetually seeking perfection, or more, or different than she has in the moment; from her husband, son, neighbors, employers, friends. Eileen Leary cannot just live for the moment, enjoy the moment, and relish what is present instead of wishing for what might be. In the end, she has regrets. Many, many regrets. In the end, these things shape the future life of her son.
Thomas' writing exposes us to how this obsession with "what might be" can shape lives and outlooks on life. Perhaps it is a life lesson neatly presented to us as "We Are Not Ourselves."
15 of 19 people found this review helpful