“We Are Not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas
I’ve been thinking for a while about how to talk about Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves. Right off the bat, it reminded me of Brooklyn by Colm Toibin or Someone by Alice McDermott.
To an extent.
If you read either of those slight, episodic books about young Irish immigrants in NYC and thought “Oh, I really loved that, I wish I knew her entire story,” then We Are Not Ourselves is something that will completely appeal to you.
We meet Eileen Tumulty as a young girl living in an apartment with her problematic/alcoholic parents and follow her well into middle age. The best part of the story, and the meat of it, concerns Eileen’s husband’s descent into illness, which was SO well done. I could picture Eileen perfectly, down to every detail so that even now – weeks after reading it – I can close my eyes and see her right down to her shoes. At times towards the middle/end of the novel, I found myself “remembering” her childhood; it seemed so long ago that I was recalling it as memory, not as something I’d just read. As weird as that is to try to describe, I think it means that by the end of the (long) novel, Eileen was someone I knew really, really well.
Sell this wonderful debut novel to anyone who likes a great family saga and is not afraid of tackling a thick book.
We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel by Matthew Thomas (Simon & Schuster |ISBN 9781476756660 |August 19, 2014)