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Story of Someone's Life
on 15 November 2013
This is Marie's story, as narrated by the author, from childhood to old age. Living in Irish-American Brooklyn, the perceptive bespectacled 7 year old Marie watches the goings-on in the street where she lives, waiting for her alcoholic father to return from work. She registers the folk in the road that only later have any meaning. Flitting to and fro in time, the story unfolds around Marie and her family as well as neighbours. All have highs and lows, struggles with life and loves and coping with death and the grief it brings. Having worked for the local undertaker, Marie learns more about the people who have touched on her life after they are dead. She develops an expertise in comforting people in times of personal loss.
Alice McDermott draws us into the everyday lives of the characters in the novel. There is nothing extraordinary going on. She makes us care and understand what happens to them, how they develop and deal with their plights. We empathise with their contrasting emotions of happiness and sadness with compassion. This is a majestic novel written with economical prose that conjures up intense imagery and emotion that is both elegant and humane.