Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We Are Not Ourselves; Matthew Thomas

We Are Not Ourselves; Matthew Thomas
Simon & Schuster

In Matthew Thomas’ debut novel, We Are Not Ourselves, the central character, Eileen Tumulty, born in 1941, is first introduced as the nine year old daughter of Irish immigrants growing up in Queens, NY. Her father “Big Mike” is a hard-drinking, well liked, larger than life figure in their community. Her mother always felt inferior and was hospitalized for a breakdown after suffering a miscarriage. She is never the same when she returns home. She drinks too much, smokes to much and poor little Eileen is more like the grownup as a result. She learns early on that it’s important to have goals in life, and strive to achieve them.

She chooses the nursing profession and a very bright man, Ed Leary for herself. They marry, buy a multi-family home in Jackson Heights, and have a son that they name Connell. Although Ed is a good man and a college professor, he remains content teaching at a local community college instead of pursuing a more prestigious job at another college or university. He doesn’t have the drive that Eileen was hoping for. She is disappointed in her husband, but yet she is also committed to him and their life together. She focuses her energy one searching for another house,  bigger , in Bronxville, a much better area. Ed does not share her enthusiasm about moving and does not want to move, but Eileen gets her way, The next home is a bigger, albeit run-down house in her dream neighborhood. It isn’t long before Eileen’s brief house high, takes a back seat to a life changing event, that begins explains her husband’s secretiveness and his odd behavior of late.

I really enjoyed this 600+ novel. Described as a sprawling saga, it’s the story of a marriage and family. Eileen, Ed and Connell, a family affected by heartbreak . It's about how their life is torn apart and how they move on. It’s a story about life, about longing for more than we have, but accepting the hand you were dealt. It's a beautiful story. Although there were many instances where I did not care for Eileen, the central character, I did respect her and feel for her situation especially in the last half of the novel. Son Connell’s story and his struggle to please his parents, was also good, although a little less compelling.

The writing is really good, and although a long novel, I never lost interest. I alternated between the print version and the audio version (which was fantastic - read by Mare Winningham). This was a terrific novel, worth the time spent, and a story I will not forget. Read it.

4.5/5 stars
(audiobook and review copy)

13 comments:

  1. I am finding that I really enjoy alternating between reading and listening. Like family stories.

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  2. I was so disappointed that this one expired on my reader before I got a chance to read it. Sounds like I really did miss a great book!

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  3. I found my interest lagging in parts though I did finish the book. It was a good story.

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  4. I've got this one on hold at the library. Looking forward to it. Sounds great.

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  6. That's actually a great idea, to alternate between written and audio, not just for this one....

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  7. I loved this book, and before I started, I was worried that the lengthy book would not hold my attention, or would drag in the middle, as sometimes happens. So happy that I stayed engaged throughout...glad you enjoyed it, too.

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  8. Everyone is reviewing or reading this one right now (except me!). It sounds really good. Complex. I like that.

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  9. This will definitely be one of my favorites this year!

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  10. I liked this one a lot too...emotionally heart wrenching, but an excellent debut to add to my list of great debuts this year!

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  11. I saw this one at BEA and on many blogs. Not sure I wanted to read it but it sounds like a good book club choice.

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  12. I'm glad you enjoyed this. I've added it to my 'To Read List'

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  13. Getting this on audio. Sounds great!

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