If you took a stroll around the EW offices, you’ll see a curious brick of a book on all our desks. We Are Not Ourselves has made quite the stir and it seems we’re all reading for it, talking about it or begging those who have read it and won’t stop talking about it for their copy.
Why? Because it’s amazing. It’s beautiful and simple and elegant and, frankly, even in the happy chapters I found myself crying at how much I love it. In a literary landscape where fantastically complicated plot lines and alternate universes run amuck, the straightforwardness of this novel is a big breath of very fresh air.
Following Eileen Tumulty, the daughter of two Irish, working-class immigrants in Queens, New York, through six decades of tireless climbing and clawing her family into the middle-class and then desperately hanging on as it all falls apart, Matthew Thomas provides an exceptional meditation on the American Dream.
But that wasn’t the gravity of the book for me. No, it was the family that pulled me in. The son trying to make it home without getting his teeth kicked in by neighborhood bullies. The dad who, in the politest way possible, is falling apart. The crazy Catholic extended family (oh yeah! I’ve got one of those!). And more than any other, Eileen, a gorgeous depiction of womanhood: the internal struggles, the self-doubt, the ability to shoulder the burdens of others, and the desperate, tireless and sometimes flawed ways of keeping a family together.
She is nuanced, carefully imagined, incredibly engaging, and as Melissa Maerz wrote in EW, it is amazing that she is born of a male author.
Between myself, Melissa, Stephan and Tina, I can’t begin to tell you how lofty the praise around these halls has been. I’m passing my copy straight onto Leah (otherwise, duh, I would have given it to you) and I hope you find your way to one soon as well.