'At seven, I was a shy child, and comical-looking, with a round flat face and black slits for eyes, thick glasses, black bangs, a straight and serious mouth - a little girl cartoon. With my heart pinned to my father's sleeve' Someone begins on the stoop of a Brooklyn apartment building where Marie is waiting for her father to come home from ...
'At seven, I was a shy child, and comical-looking, with a round flat face and black slits for eyes, thick glasses, black bangs, a straight and serious mouth - a little girl cartoon. With my heart pinned to my father's sleeve' Someone begins on the stoop of a Brooklyn apartment building where Marie is waiting for her father to come home from work. It is the 1920s and in her Irish-American enclave the stories of her neighbours unfold before her short-sighted eyes. There is war-blinded Billy Corrigan and foolish, ill-fated Pegeen - and her parents' legendary Syrian-Irish marriage - the terrifying Big Lucy, and the ever-present Sisters of Charity from the convent down the road. As the years pass Marie's own history plays out against the backdrop of a changing world. Her older brother Gabe leaves for the seminary to study for the priesthood, his faith destined to be tested to breaking point. Marie experiences first love - and first heartbreak - marriage and motherhood, and discovers how time can reveal us all to be fools and dreamers, blinded in one way or another by hope, loss or the exigencies of life and love. One life in all its devastating pains and unexpected joys; its bursts of brilliant clarity and moments of profound confusion. Fragments of a curious childhood, of adolescent sexual awakenings, of motherhood and, finally, old age are pieced together in this resonant story of an unremarkable, unforgettable woman.
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Publishers Weekly, 2013-10-28 The challenge of narrating McDermott's latest novel is its impressionistic quality-the story wends back and forth through time, from prewar childhood in Brooklyn to middle-aged parenthood, old age, and back again. The one constant in the book is the protagonist, Marie, who has compromised eyesight, but offers keen observations about human nature. In this audio edition Kate Reading provides a needed constancy. Her female characters have a world-weariness about them. Whether they are sighing with subtle disappointment at a daughter's inability to bake bread or keening with grief in the neighborhood funeral home, Reading makes their range of emotions entirely believable. She is not quite as successful with the novel's male characters, which lack vocal differentiation. Even Marie's sensitive brother Gabe and her entirely insensitive boyfriend, Walter, sound much the same. But, considering how much of the novel is about women's lives and experiences, this is a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent performance. An FSG hardcover. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly, 2013-06-17 In this deceptively simple tour de force, McDermott (Charming Billy, winner of the National Book Award) lays bare the keenly observed life of Marie Commeford, an ordinary woman whose compromised eyesight makes her both figuratively and literally unable to see the world for what it is. When we meet her on the steps of her Brooklyn townhouse, she's a bespectacled seven-year-old waiting for her father; McDermott then leaps ahead, when Marie, pregnant with her first child, recalls collapsing at a deli counter and the narrative plunges us into a world where death is literally just around the corner, upending the safety and comfort of her neighborhood; "In a few months' time, I would be at death's door, last rites and all," she relates. We follow Marie through the milestones of her life, shadowed by her elder brother, Gabe, who mysteriously leaves the priesthood for which everyone thought he was destined. The story of Marie's life unfolds in a nonlinear fashion: McDermott describes the loss of Marie's father, her first experience with intimacy, her first job (in a funeral parlor of all places), her marriage, the birth of a child. We come to feel for this unremarkable woman, whose vulnerability makes her all the more winning-and makes her worthy of our attention. And that's why McDermott, a three-time Pulitzer nominee, is such an exceptional writer: in her hands, an uncomplicated life becomes singularly fascinating, revealing the heart of a woman whose defeats make us ache and whose triumphs we cheer. Marie's vision (and ours) eventually clears, and she comes to understand that what she so often failed to see lay right in front of her eyes. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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