Friday, November 29, 2013

"Someone," by Alice McDermott

I’ve just read a lovely novel: “Someone” (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013), by Alice McDermott. “Lovely” is a word not commonly found in book reviews, but that is my response to this beautifully written story of an “ordinary” woman, Marie Commeford. Marie’s life is extraordinarily ordinary; it is the gift of the author to make her character’s story utterly alive, utterly compelling in its ordinariness. Marie grows up in Brooklyn early in the 20th century, the child of an Irish Catholic immigrant family. In this first person narrative, Marie tells of her family, her neighborhood and neighbors, her adolescence, her work in a funeral home, her marriage, her motherhood, and her old age. Particularly strong characters, besides Marie herself, are her mother, her brother, and her husband. Throughout Marie’s life, there are happy times, worrying times, sad times, and inconclusive times. We are immersed in Marie’s life; we live and breathe with her. To me, this making an “ordinary” woman’s life so individual, so distinct, and so compelling is what literature is all about. I was impressed by McDermott’s earlier novels, such as “That Night” and “After This”; “Someone” reaches new heights of revelatory writing.

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