The New York Times - Notable Books of 2013

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Someone (2013)

Written by Alice McDermott

A fully realized portrait of one woman’s life in all its complexity, by the National Book Award–winning author.

An ordinary life—its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion—lived by an ordinary woman: this is the subject of Someone, Alice McDermott’s extraordinary return, seven years after the publication of After This. Scattered recollections—of childhood, adolescence, motherhood, old age—come together in this transformative narrative, stitched into a vibrant whole by McDermott’s deft, lyrical voice.

Our first glimpse of Marie is as a child: a girl in glasses waiting on a Brooklyn stoop for her beloved father to come home from work. A seemingly innocuous encounter with a young woman named Pegeen sets the bittersweet tone of this remarkable novel. Pegeen describes herself as an “amadan,” a fool; indeed, soon after her chat with Marie, Pegeen tumbles down her own basement stairs. The magic of McDermott’s novel lies in how it reveals us all as fools for this or that, in one way or another.

Marie’s first heartbreak and her eventual marriage; her brother’s brief stint as a Catholic priest, subsequent loss of faith, and eventual breakdown; the Second World War; her parents’ deaths; the births and lives of Marie’s children; the changing world of her Irish-American enclave in Brooklyn—McDermott sketches all of it with sympathy and insight. This is a novel that speaks of life as it is daily lived; a crowning achievement by one of the finest American writers at work today. (Copyright © Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan. All rights reserved.)

Source:  Macmillan Publishers.

Alice McDermott is an American writer and university professor. For her 1998 novel Charming Billy she won an American Book Award and the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.

McDermott is Johns Hopkins University's Richard A. Macksey Professor of the Humanities. Born in Brooklyn, New York, McDermott attended St. Boniface School in Elmont, New York, on Long Island (1967), Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead (1971), and the State University of New York at Oswego, receiving her BA in 1975. She received her MA from the University of New Hampshire in 1978.

She has taught at UCSD and American University, has been a writer-in-residence at Lynchburg College and Hollins College in Virginia, and was lecturer in English at the University of New Hampshire. Her short stories have appeared in Ms., Redbook, Mademoiselle, The New Yorker and Seventeen. She has also published articles in the New York Times and Washington Post.

McDermott lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband, a neuroscientist, and three children.

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