5 reviews

We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel
by Matthew Thomas

Published: 2014-08-19
Hardcover : 640 pages
12 members reading this now
20 clubs reading this now
3 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 5 members
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014 * Washington Post Top 50 Fiction List for 2014 * Entertainment Weekly Ten Best Fiction Books of 2014 * Esquire 5 Most Important Books of 2014 * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014 * One of Janet Maslin’s Ten Favorite Books of the Year in The New ...
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New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014 * Washington Post Top 50 Fiction List for 2014 * Entertainment Weekly Ten Best Fiction Books of 2014 * Esquire 5 Most Important Books of 2014 * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014 * One of Janet Maslin’s Ten Favorite Books of the Year in The New York Times

The instant New York Times bestseller the Washington Post calls a “stunning…superbly rendered” novel, and Entertainment Weekly describes as “a gripping family saga, maybe the best…since The Corrections.”

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on how much alcohol has been consumed. From an early age, Eileen wished that she lived somewhere else. She sets her sights on upper class Bronxville, New York, and an American Dream is born.

Driven by this longing, Eileen places her stock and love in Ed Leary, a handsome young scientist, and with him begins a family. Over the years Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house. It slowly becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper, more incomprehensive psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Described by The New York Times Book Review as “A long, gorgeous epic, full of love and caring…one of the best novels you’ll read this year,” We Are Not Ourselves is a testament to our greatest desires and our greatest frailties. Through the lives of these characters, Thomas charts the story of the American Century. The result is, “stunning…The joys of this book are the joys of any classic work of literature—for that is what this is destined to become—superbly rendered small moments that capture both an individual life and the universality of that person’s experience” (The Washington Post).

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2014: Ten years in the making, Matthew Thomas’s heartfelt debut launches with the gritty poetry of a Pete Hamill novel: brash Irishmen on barstools, Irish women both wise and strong, and the streets of New York splayed out like a song. What’s special about this book is how Thomas takes us, slowly and somewhat unexpectedly, deep inside a family battling the gray-toned middling place of their middle-class existence. At the core is Eileen Tumulty Leary, urging her complacent husband and their impressionable son forward. Along the way, lives come and go. (“Fair enough,” her mother said, and in a little while she was dead.) There are some gorgeous scenes, some taut lines (I liked the air-conditioning unit’s “indefatigable wind”), and some heartbreakers (a mother tells her son, at the funeral home, “That’s probably enough”). It’s thrilling to see an emerging writer test and flex his voice. Eileen and her husband are “coconspirators in a mission of normalcy”; in truth, there’s occasionally too much normalcy in these 600 pages. Then again, it’s oddly addictive to watch this family unfold, age, and devolve. Intimate, honest, and true, it’s the story of a doomed father and a flawed son and the indefatigable and loving woman who keeps them all together, even as they’re falling apart. --Neal Thompson


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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

None of the questions focused on the last chapter and Connell's adult glimpse at loss of memory. We discussed whether we felt that Connell, too, was experiencing early-onset Alzheimer's, and how his reaction to his memory loss contributed to our understa
by carolkaskin (see profile) 04/15/15

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

an Irish evening
by carolkaskin (see profile) 04/15/15
While our club meets in the evening and serves only snacks, our hostess added a few Irish touches--some Irish cheese, a Bailey's Irish Cream Cake, a crossword puzzle with places/names from the book as a starter.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "we are not ourselves"by Carolyn R. (see profile) 08/13/18

read the overview for yourself. This is a hard book to rate. and for that reason i would recommend it for a book club because i would like to hear other people's take on it. I found it bori... (read more)

  "Cannot speak highly enough of this book"by ELIZABETH V. (see profile) 11/18/17

This review of WE ARE NOT OURSELVES is a test of my writing skill: how can I speak highly enough about this book? It’s not a mystery/thriller, usually the genre that can be riveting, yet I... (read more)

  "The book excels when it examines the effect of Alzheimer's Disease on all those involved."by Gail R. (see profile) 11/08/15

We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas, author,
Although the illness of Ed Leary is at the heart of this story because he morphs into someone who is no longer himself, the tale is really Eil
... (read more)

by Jacque L. (see profile) 04/16/15

  "We Are Not Ourselves"by Carol A. (see profile) 04/15/15

While not all members of the book club enjoyed this book as much as I did, the discussion was lively. Those who disliked the book focused on the book's pace as being too slow and its main female character... (read more)

  "Loved this book"by Wendy G. (see profile) 02/24/15

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