We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel
by Matthew Thomas
Hardcover- $12.06

New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014 * Washington Post Top 50 Fiction List for 2014 * Entertainment Weekly Ten Best Fiction Books of ...

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  "Loved this book" by Wendy56 (see profile) 02/24/15

  "We Are Not Ourselves" by carolkaskin (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 as being an unsympathetic one. Those who liked the book, however, saw the book as more of a character study of a family in a given situation, and they enjoyed the realistic actions and speech of the characters. I would say that the 3 stars I gave the book above would be an average of the groups' responses to that question.

  "" by jlease (see profile) 04/16/15

  "The book excels when it examines the effect of Alzheimer's Disease on all those involved." by thewanderingjew (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 Eileen Tumulty’s. It explores her early childhood and takes the reader right up to her old age. She was brought up in a middle class neighborhood. Her dad was the neighborhood go-to guy. He held court and offered advice in the local bar after his workday ended and before he went home for dinner, which was always at the same assigned hour, served by her mother. He was content with his narrow life although his wife was not, and she eventually became an alcoholic. It was Eileen who took control and sent her mom to AA. This was to be Eileen’s persona as she grew up. She took charge and made things happen, often at the expense of others; although she was considerate, she seemed most interested in her own happiness first. She had the ability to move on with her life and not look back. She only dealt with those things that she could cope with comfortably, and she looked away from everything else as if it never happened. She worked when she had to, in order to get a good education, and eventually became a nurse. While pursuing a Master’s Degree, she met Ed Leary, ironically, a research scientist with expertise in the workings of the brain. He, like her father, was content with a mediocre kind of life, tending to the needs of others before himself. He refused promotions in favor of teaching those less fortunate and remained working at the Community College until circumstances forced him to leave.
Ed and Eileen married and had one child, Connell. Connell, like his mom, seemed to serve his own needs first, but also like his dad, enjoyed assisting others. They seemed like a good, upwardly mobile family, but they were really not on the move. Time passed, they moved from one home to another because of Eileen’s persistence, but basically, Ed remained where he was, never accepting advancement, and so he never grew. When misfortune struck, Eileen did take control once again, although, she really had no choice. She tried her best to cope with the situation she faced, but sometimes put her own needs before the needs of those most in need of her support. She was not always where she should be, by choice, but still she was in charge and made demands and compromises when necessary, especially after Ed’s unfortunate diagnosis.
The author dissects the family’s decline as the devastating disease that had no cure and no remission became an enormous burden to bear. The story carefully examines the varying reactions of those close to the family and the family members as Ed’s disease developed further and further until it was hard to recognize him as the man he once was. He deteriorated physically, mentally and emotionally. Through the narrative the author explores the issues that must be faced by the family members in order to cope with the new financial and emotional needs of both the victim and those that serve them.
Eileen does the best she can, but in the end wonders if her best was really the best she could have done. Guilt haunts Eileen and her son Connell. He was just a teenager, about to graduate High School when his father became ill, and it is only a few years later that the toll it takes on him is obvious.
The carefully drawn picture of Ed’s steady downward progression and Eileen’s desperate reactions, sometimes inappropriate and unexpected, gave the most meaning to the story. However, there seemed to be several long-winded and excessive descriptions that went on and on. The extra dialogue went off tangentially, lending nothing further to the story. Because of the excessive wordiness, after awhile, the story felt like one long eulogy whose purpose was to over involve and overwhelm the reader emotionally in much the same way as the narrator of the audio book seemed overwhelmed portraying the character totally on the basis of feelings and leaving out any intellectual interpretation. Perhaps, I would have liked Eileen more if the narrator’s tone hadn’t been so cloying. The reader sometimes over emoted in inappropriate moments, which almost mocked what she was describing rather than lending it the appropriate gravitas that it required. I also read the print copy for clarification of some points, and I think the print copy was superior.
The best part of the book is its exploration of Alzheimer’s Disease and how it effects others, besides the victim. It points out that the ability to communicate may not be the problem, rather it is the lack of communication that is at the heart of most of life’s crises. The guilt and shame that often follow in the wake of illness and death is most often misplaced. The book attempts to do too much. There is too much philosophy, too much emotion, too much description. Nothing is really left to think about because the author attempts to provide all of the answers.
In the end, the lack of communication between those that could and those that couldn’t, created chaos and misunderstandings, failures of purpose and moments of misconduct. Sometimes it necessitated starting life over again.

  "Cannot speak highly enough of this book" by ebach (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 was stuck on this book. I even skipped dinner for it and read late into the night.

But this is not a feel-good book, either. From about the halfway point, every page is emotional. You won’t want to rush through a single one.

Yes, you can say that WE ARE NOT OURSELVES is about an Irish-American woman from the time she was a little girl. The book begins by painting the background of Eileen. But I could not tell its purpose and was afraid, at first, that the entire book would be nothing but incidences about her life.

That type of book does not tell a story. Rather, it is a book of short stories connected by a character(s).

WE ARE NOT OURSELVES more than redeems itself as Eileen grows and begins her own family. You will see later how necessary is is that you know that background.

You will also see that WE ARE NOT OURSELVES is about much more than Eileen. She and her family face what so many families are confronted with. And no one does it perfectly.

I’m afraid to say more than that. To describe it further would take away from the anticipation you need to feel to appreciate WE ARE NOT OURSELVES as much as I do. So, please, don’t read any other reviews, not even the book flap.

  "we are not ourselves" by Carolynr (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 boring at times, and interesting at other times. I disliked Eileen at some points, and by the end I liked her a lot better. SPOILER: i think the description of a caregiver was well done --- all she went through to keep Ed home. The ending disappointed me a bit. So was Collen early on set or not and if so, why change his mind about having a child?
Lots to discuss. Not my favorite book, but a decent read

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