Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Audiobook Review: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Title:  We Are Not Ourselves

Author:  Matthew Thomas

Narrator:  Mare Winningham

Unabridged Length:  20 hrs, 51 mn

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:

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.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.

Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.

My Review: 
Let me tell you that this sweeping novel narrated by Mare Winningham was an amazing listening experience.  We are able to follow all of young Eileen's hopes, dreams, fears, and losses throughout her life.  You can't help but want more for her as she struggles from day to day.  Nothing will stop Eileen from acquiring her American Dream.

As a young girl living in a small apartment in Queens with her immigrant family, she watches her parents struggle to get by.  As Eileen gets older she does everything she needs to find success.  Eileen finishes nursing school, but throughout her career eventually decides to pursue medical administration.

When Eileen marries Ed Leary, she hopes all her dreams will materialize quickly, but that does not come to pass.  They both have good jobs, but Ed is comfortable with his routine.  Renting an upstairs apartment is about all of the commitment that Ed is willing to invest in.  After many years Eileen is able to talk Ed into purchasing the building they live in, so they finally have something of their own.

It isn't until decades later that Eileen decides she wants more from this life once again.  Ed is nearing retirement and their son is in high school, getting ready for college soon.  Eileen does all she can to achieve her dreams, and even though she gets everything she wants, their lives start a downward spiral.  She realizes that everything that it has taken her whole life to achieve, she could lose in just a few months.  

Although this wasn't an action-packed novel, I found myself looking forward to listening to it.  With themes of family, love, illness, and immigrants, you may enjoy this book as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


bermudaonion said...

I have this in print and need to make the time to get to it.

Shocked at Taint Pain Cure said...

One of the best books I have read in ages. I admit to having tears in my eyes often, from sadness as well as heartfelt moments. Some of the harrowing scenes are still with me, they are so well written. When I stumble and take a chance on finding new things, such as this, I feel so lucky. Anyone who reads this novel will be lucky as well.