“We Are Not Ourselves” follows the lifelong journey of Eileen Tumulty, raised by Irish Immigrant parents during a crucial turning point in America’s history. The novel chronicles Eileen’s journey through life, love, struggle, loss, gain, peace and turmoil.
On it’s surface “We Are Not Ourselves” the daunting 600 page bio-epic about a woman from impoverished Queens who struggles to find more in life than a third floor walk-up didn’t seem all that interesting to me to be perfectly honest. I read the novel because Misha Collins – a brilliant man whom I am quite fond of – suggested it get read by the world. So. I read it.
I had a hard time getting into the novel – I found that I very sorely disliked the protagonist. I thought she was needy, whiny, petulant at times. . . she wasn’t likable. But the more I read it the more I thought about the fact that she didn’t have to be likable because people aren’t all that likable. So I pressed on.
I have to say the introduction of Ed Leary kept my interest in the novel – Ed’s character was a lot like myself, very bare-bones and rather easy-going; whereas Eileen was very into materials and needing things to be perfect. Eileen’s character chases this elusive ideal of The American Dream whereas Ed isn’t so much like that.
I ended up becoming invested fully in the novel and finishing it rather quickly after my initial 300 pages of doubt. It had a very well done ending I believe, and unfortunately I can’t say much without essentially divulging the entire culmination of the book. I can say however that the more I think about the book in retrospect the more I grasp onto smaller parts, or even larger concepts and I think “It’s just like in that book” and I have to explain myself to whomever I am talking to.
Overall, the book just really wasn’t the genre of writing I prefer – if you’ve read my posts you know that I’m very much into Supernatural YA fiction – so for it to hold my attention at all speaks volumes as to Thomas’ ability to captivate. I do think it was well written, and I think it had a lot of honesty. There were many parts I feel were easy to identify with and there was a fair amount of heartbreaking truths.
It left me rather depressed… I’m not sure that’s the best word, but it sat heavy with me. I feel like the ending might have meant to be hopeful, but I didn’t comprehend it that way. It just made me feel…caged. It’s quite hard to explain without spoiling the entire novel. It wasn’t any darker or more poignant than any of the novels I normally read, but it was definitely more realistic and therefore harder to digest I think. But it was well written and it wasn’t a waste of time – just prepare yourself emotionally. I would recommend.