'You are not in this
life to count up victories and defeats.
You are in it to love and be loved.'
This debut novel is an epic family drama centering around Eileen, a New Yorker with hard drinking Irish immigrant parents. It follows her throughout her life, through her marriage to Ed and her career. Eileen is fiercely ambitious, and wants to move up in the world from the Queens neighbourhood where she grows up. She wants that universal 'something more', something that she can't define. It's a moving novel that provides a thorough portrait of the life of this particular family, from their successes to their failures.
What I liked:
The portrait of love in this novel is so deep and beautiful it's not something I think that I'd ever be able to do. The central couple Ed and Eileen Leary are vastly different and both have their certain nuances and difficulties. They aren't perfect, but they do seem real. I understood completely why they were together, and why they had the problems they did. I rooted for them, but not just because they were supposed to be together as a fictional cliché. I rooted for them because I thought their lives would be lesser without the other.
The writing was beautiful. Thomas conveyed so much with his words, and it was a long book, but it never felt like he got carried away or rambled. The writing was never too poetic, not too pared back. Just perfect. I saved so many quotes from this book to my favourites on GoodReads.
What I disliked:
I came very close to giving this five stars, but couldn't quite. It was a hefty book, and whilst epic in its scope across generations of a family, I felt it was slightly too long. I loved how the family was fully, expertly portrayed, but I felt the set up for the main storyline (Eileen and Ed's story) was too long. So although I loved it, I think I loved it too late. If I was less of a committed reader, I might have given up after the first 100 pages or so. And in the later sections, I wasn't entirely pulled in with the change of narrator.
But overall it's a beautiful story, and you're pulled in so closely to the characters and storyline. I won't post any spoilers, but I cried numerous times. It was a book that wrapped tightly around my heart and squeezed on my emotions. I loved that.
What is it about? The importance of drive and ambition- but how overall life is worth it if we have love.
Would I recommend? Yes, definitely.
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