The sequel to Frank McCourt's memoir of his Irish Catholic boyhood, Angela's Ashes
, picks up the story in October 1949 upon his arrival in America. Though he was born in New York, the family had returned to Ireland due to poor prospects in the United States. Now back on American soil, this awkward 19-year-old, with his "pimply face, sore eyes, and bad teeth," has little in common with the healthy, self-assured college students he sees on the subway and dreams of joining in the classroom. Initially, his American experience is as harrowing as his impoverished youth in Ireland, including two of the grimmest Christmases ever described in literature. McCourt views the U.S. through the same sharp eye and dark humour that distinguished his first memoir; race prejudice, casual cruelty and dead-end jobs weigh on his spirits as he searches for a way out. A glimpse of hope comes from the army, where he acquires some white-collar skills, and from New York University, which admits him without a high school diploma. But the journey toward his position teaching creative writing at Stuyvesant High School is neither quick nor easy. Fortunately, McCourt's openness to every variety of human emotion and longing remains exceptional; even the most damaged, difficult people he encounters are richly rendered individuals with whom the reader can't help but feel uncomfortable kinship. The magical prose, with its singing Irish cadences, brings grandeur and beauty to the most sorrowful events, including the final scene, in which Angela's ashes are scattered over a Limerick graveyard. --Wendy Smith
''Tis feels like a friend, telling the tales of his life over a pint, with charm and humour, economy and pace. There is a sense of loss when you have to close the pages and sleep, or go on to other things. McCourt is a masterful writer… All who read Angela's Ashes will read 'Tis. They will love it, and so did I.' Independent on Sunday
'Few will be able to resist this pacey and fluid sequel… In post-war New York, McCourt moves through work as a longshoreman, a spell in the army, to night-school, to become a creative writing teacher encouraging his kids to "write about what you know" – the same policy that has led him to belated international celebrity…McCourt's gift lies not simply in having lived through interesting times, but having developed his skills as an editor and narrator to produce two fine, funny and moving slices of a past that is not simply Ireland's, but everyone's.' Guardian
'Every page contains an unforced laugh…The gloom is indivisible from moments of great joy and compassion – the sound of jazz pouring form a club, the comforting arm of a fellow worker – which McCourt is able to express in his fresh and supple prose. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, McCourt has the power to transform even the saddest recollections into sentences of great beauty, and in that beauty lies the possibility of salvation.' Mail on Sunday
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