Book Review: ‘We Are Not Ourselves’ Is Harrowing And Riveting

we are not ourselves

Review by Ann McDonald

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.

Author Matthew Thomas takes us on a journey that covers an Irish immigrant family from Eileen Tumulty’s point of view. She was born in Woodside, Queens to an Irish mother and father. We first meet Eileen being picked up from step dancing class by her father and from there they go to Doherty’s pub where he holds court. He is deferred to by the Irish men who frequent the bar, in fact, the pub is their confessional and her dad their priest and she never quite figures out why this is so. In her formative years, she is witness to a strange non-verbal, non-touching relationship between her parents and grows with a longing for human warmth and most importantly, a home of her own, a reflection of her mother’s dream.

Her mother drifts into into alcoholism after losing a baby and Eileen becomes a caregiver for years. Her father also drinks but worse, he gambles away every hope for a home of their own. Eventually, Eileen gets her mother into AA and she goes to nursing school and starts a life of her own. She meets Ed Leary, a research scientist and they get married. He is a future, a future she is prepared to work hard for – a home of her own. She eventually has a son and lives her life in hope. Matthew Thomas has the details of their life down to a tee. When he takes this family down a dark and harrowing path, you don’t want to go, you don’t want to cry but you do, you don’t to walk where he takes you but you do.

Once you start reading this book, you have to stay the course and witness the end, and the future that was taking root. You may not like this book but you won’t forget it because it takes you out of your comfort zone and you face the life Eileen faced and at the end of the day, if you want a happily ever after, you should read a fairy tale instead. Highly recommended.

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Ann McDonald
One Response
  1. December 25, 2014

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