Someone by Alice McDermott is the story of a single twentieth-century life, slim and quiet but immensely powerful. Marie is the unexceptional youngest member of an Irish family living somewhere in Brooklyn, and we witness moments of her life, told in beautiful, delicate detail, an ordinary life punctuated by tiny detonations of hope and despair, by events that seem somewhat arbitrary, and trivial, but which are all somehow connected, which add up to something. So much in Marie’s world is not spoken, but it’s there all the same. Out of the smallest, sometimes pettiest things, McDermott captures the immensity of a person’s whole lived experience, with her (often bruising) relationships, and does so with truthfulness and an unparalleled economy and grace.
About the Book
An ordinary life—its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion—lived by an ordinary woman: this is the subject of Someone, Alice McDermott’s extraordinary return, seven years after the publication of After This. Scattered recollections—of childhood, adolescence, motherhood, old age—come together in this transformative narrative, stitched into a vibrant whole by McDermott’s deft, lyrical voice.
Our first glimpse of Marie is as a child: a girl in glasses waiting on a Brooklyn stoop for her beloved father to come home from work. A seemingly innocuous encounter with a young woman named Pegeen sets the bittersweet tone of this remarkable novel. Pegeen describes herself as an “amadan,” a fool; indeed, soon after her chat with Marie, Pegeen tumbles down her own basement stairs. The magic of McDermott’s novel lies in how it reveals us all as fools for this or that, in one way or another.
Marie’s first heartbreak and her eventual marriage; her brother’s brief stint as a Catholic priest, subsequent loss of faith, and eventual breakdown; the Second World War; her parents’ deaths; the births and lives of Marie’s children; the changing world of her Irish-American enclave in Brooklyn—McDermott sketches all of it with sympathy and insight. This is a novel that speaks of life as it is daily lived; a crowning achievement by one of the finest American writers at work today.
About the Author
Alice McDermott is the author of several previous novels, including After This; Child of My Heart; Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award; and At Weddings and Wakes, all published by FSG. That Night, At Weddings and Wakes, and After This were all finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. McDermott lives with her family outside Washington, D.C.
Someone – an indefinite and ordinary word. A novel that shows how indefinite and ordinary but also beautiful a life can be when you have someone to share it with. A pleasure to read.