Friday, February 27, 2015

We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

This one has been sitting on my e-reader since the publisher sent it for review last October, and I finally got a chance to read it.  This is what they gave me to tempt me :
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. Eileen can't help but dream of a calmer life, in a better neighborhood. 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...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 powerfully 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 each other so before the moment slips away. Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves is a testament to our greatest desires and our greatest frailties."--
This is thoroughly engrossing story, even tho it drags a bit in the middle. I found the character of Eileen despicable although I suspect the author wanted us to have a great deal of sympathy for her. The slow and inexorable decline of the husband as he succumbs to early-onset Alzheimers is handled with discouraging and often depressing realism. At times, it appears the entire family is a train-wreck in the making, and then the reader realizes that may actually be what it feels like to live with this fearsome disease. The author may want us to see this as an epic portrayal of how life changed in the 1950s and 1960s, but it is more a study of the combination of impacts-- a disease of the brain and a huge case of greed.  It is certainly worth reading to get an idea of the devastating impact of Alzheimer's on not just the patient but the entire family, particularly in earlier times when it was not as well known, diagnosed, and discussed.

Title: We are Not Ourselves
Author: Matthew Thomas
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014), Edition: e-galley 640 pages 
Genre: Literary fiction
Subject: Adult on-set Alzheimer's
Source: e-galley from the publisher via Net Galley

1 comment:

  1. I liked this story despite the harsh reality of dealing with an illness like Alzheimer's.


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