I really like Alice McDermott, I’ve read a few of her books – and this latest one of hers is a good one. Having read this book, and really enjoying it, I’m still not sure about the title. I’m not sure who the Someone was supposed to be. The story chronicles a woman’s life, told in a series of events. Marie grew up in Brooklyn, and the story begins in the 1930s. Living in an immigrant neighborhood, she is surrounded by interesting characters – with different backgrounds, and interesting stories. I think I was about halfway through the book before I figured what time period this was supposed to be. There were parts of the story in the beginning that hinted at the early 20th century, but it was kind of bugging me for a while that I didn’t know when the story was supposed to be taken place.
Although I liked the story – it wasn’t always easy to keep up with the flash backs or flash forwards. The story starts when she’s very young, and the middle of the book ranges until she is very old – she’s at a doctor’s office with her daughter (who has kids of her own), waiting for cataract surgery. She has an older brother Gabriel, to whom she is always compared. He is a bright child, always the favorite of their parents, or at least that’s what she believes. They are first generation Americans – children of Irish immigrants. This experience greatly shapes who they will become. He at once a Catholic priest, then experiences a loss of faith. She, a wife and mother, struggles to understand him.
The small moments for Marie add up to her life story. She and her brother are rooted in Brooklyn, and the way it is portrayed (in this and other books) it seems like a small town, in the shadow of Manhattan. One thing she says about her life that really struck me, is the importance of the hospital in all of their lives – versus the church or the home. The important events of their lives have happened there – the births of her children, a major surgery (at one point she has an eye condition which renders her blind for almost a week). This is so poignant, so true, and something I’ve never really acknowledged before.
I really loved this book, the simplicity in telling the story of someone who wasn’t necessarily notable or accomplished, but whose life was important nonetheless. Again, I’m not quite sure about the title – I just can’t connect it with anything in the book. I don’t know why that bothers me – but somehow it does. In something so beautifully written, and whose characters are so memorable, it deserves a more memorable title.