On a trip to France earlier this summer I read We Are Not Ourselves, a novel by Mathew Thomas. There is nothing worse than traveling without something good to read. We Are Not Ourselves is a rich family saga that lasted my entire vacation.
The story spans the life of Eileen Tumulty – her girlhood, marriage, and motherhood – with all the joys and disappointments of ordinary life. When her husband becomes ill with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the entire family is affected. There are predictably tragic moments, but this story of a loving family is completely absorbing and deeply rewarding all the way to the final pages.
A much smaller book, though no less momentous, is by the Irish writer Jeannette Haien. Her novel, The All of It, published first in 1986, is a jewel of a story, much lauded by Ann Patchett in the foreword of the recent Harper Perennial paperback edition.
An astute reader friend of mine described this novel as the Eros of narrative. The story begins with a priest, Father Declan, who listens to one of his parishoners recount her life with the recently deceased, Kevin Dennehy. The spell-binding beauty of her storytelling captures him and us. When I came to the last page I turned back to the beginning and started reading all over again.