[T]he novel looks back on [Marie's] life—from her childhood in prewar Brooklyn…through the years of her marriage on Long Island…to her dotage in a nursing home. As such, it has something of the quality of a slide show, but one that's a bit jumbled…Each slide, each scene, from the ostensibly inconsequential to the clearly momentous, is illuminated with equal care. The effect on the reader is of sitting alongside the narrator, sharing the task of sifting the salvaged fragments of her life, watching her puzzle over, rearrange and reconsider them—and at last, but without any particular urgency or certitude, tilting herself in the direction of finally discerning their significance. This is a quiet business, but it's the sense-making we all engage in, the narrative work that allows us to construct a coherent framework for our everyday existence. It's also a serious business, the essential work of an examined life…McDermott's excellence is on ample display here.
Leah Hager Cohen - New York Times Book Review
In this deceptively simple tour de force, McDermott lays bare the keenly observed life of Marie Commeford.... We come to feel for this unremarkable woman, whose vulnerability makes her all the more winning—and makes her worthy of our attention.... [McDermott] is such an exceptional writer: in her hands, an uncomplicated life becomes singularly fascinating.
All people are interesting if we only know their story.... [T]his novel moves from one emotionally rich touch point to the next in a nonlinear narrative that echoes memory itself.... McDermott continues to captivate readers by delving into ordinary, daily life with skill and compassion, showing us that we can't always see at the time what will be meaningful in our lives. —Gwen Vredevoogd, Marymount Univ. Libs., Arlington, VA
[McDermott] follows seven decades of a Brooklyn woman's modest life to create one of the author's most trenchant explorations into the heart and soul of the 20th-century Irish-American family.... Marie's straightforward narration is interrupted with occasional jumps back and forward in time that create both a sense of foreboding and continuity as well as a meditation on the nature of sorrow....McDermott's elegy to a vanished world.
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