Sunday, November 29, 2015

Almost There - Nuala O'Faolain

Another used bookstore find.  I'd read the wildly popular first book by this journalist turned author, titled "Are You Somebody?" back in 2003 and I recognized the author's name.  Nuala wrote her first book as a memoir of her life up until about age 50.  She'd grown up in Ireland with an alcoholic mother and detached father, one of nine children.  This book was the continuation of her story, written when she was in her early 60's.

Her books talk of her loneliness, her "sour" disposition, her struggles with love and life.  Some quotes:
"The lonely life pays off...And because it is lonely you think you deserve it - you never really confront the fact that solitary pleasures erode your ties to the human race".
She has an ongoing struggle with the memories of her mother:
"The fact that it was our mother who wouldn't allow us to mean anything to her, that it was our mother who gave us daily proof of as much dissatisfaction with her lot as if she'd been a queen sold into slavery, opened my feeling in the memoir to all comers...What there is to say about fathers is specific, but what there is to say about mothers is easily generalized." 
She reflects on the impact of her mother's rejection on her own inability to accept the daughter of her partner, John:
"I didn't even know she [her mother] was inducting me into her own resentment of children.  And if I had known, I would have thought it doesn't matter - that I could re-educate myself anytime.  What if I can't?  What if I can't lift this weight off my heart?"
 I liked this observation when she's talking about money worries:
"Middle-aged people do eventually catch up with as much money as they need." 
She goes on a family vacation with her siblings and reflects on the family relationships:
"My days had purpose because I had the others to report to in the evening, even if I made my reports fairly short - only someone who loves you personally tolerates a full account of your experiences.  My sisters have been listening to me all my life and vice versa, and there's a limit to how interesting we find each other." 
There's irony and humor hiding vasts amounts of pain in her stories.  Through it all, she struggles to enjoy her life.  I was sadden to learn that she died in 2008 of lung cancer.  She spoke with a voice that many could relate to.

Published:  2003  Read: November 2015  Genre: memoir

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