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All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  7,649 ratings  ·  642 reviews
A breakaway bestseller since its first printing, All Souls takes us deep into Michael Patrick MacDonald's Southie, the proudly insular neighborhood with the highest concentration of white poverty in America. Rocked by Whitey Bulger's crime schemes and busing riots, MacDonald's Southie is populated by sharply hewn characters like his Ma, a miniskirted, accordion-playing sin ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Beacon Press (first published 1999)
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Tasha
Aug 09, 2007 Tasha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
So many people told me I was going to love this book. Most of them were amazed that I had never read it, having taught at Boston Collegiate Charter School, which was founded in the late 90's as a response to the alarming death rate among Southie teens. Most of my Collegiate students were from Southie, and they had Southie pride, through and through. I think that, in many ways, we misunderstood each other -- and I did most of the misunderstanding. I had only an inkling of an idea why my students ...more
Teagan
It actually took me quite awhile to finish this book. Not because it was bad, but because the stark reality of it was something that I found so emotional that I found myself feeling a bit lost. He wrote so emotionally about his family, giving the reader a glimpse into a world that most of us have could never imagine. But I found that I was relating my own life to those events that Mr. MacDonald experienced. I remember the busing problems in South Boston and the evolution of our generation. The f ...more
Haley
This book was a strange roller coaster. The first chapter had me riveted, then I slogged through subsequent chapters like a kid taking bitter medicine. I knew it was good for me but my soul felt like it had cramps. I learned a ton from this book about the complexities of the Southie identity, and the history of the busing movement in Boston, and the book's ending was fascinating (and redeeming). I cannot imagine having such a story to tell, and I appreciate that it has been told.

However, having
...more
Elizabeth K.
This book made me realize that one of the reasons I like memoirs so much is that I enjoy reading about other people's lives and then being judgmental about all the things they are doing wrong. On the plus side, I liked the personal view on what was going on in urban Boston in the 1970s, especially the personal accounts of the busing riots. (I vaguely remember when that was in the news, and I was too young to quite get what it was all about.) The author is passionate about the neighborhood where ...more
Yaovi



If you are a person that lives in an area like Jamaica plain, Southie, Dorchester or hyde park, this is a good book for you to read. This book is about how life was around those places a while ago. At first when you look at the books cover, you will think you will not like it because it as pictures of little kids and you might think its about the life of some little kids. But once you read it, you will like it because its about how life was in those places before before and if you lie reading
...more
Joy
a sad, yet engrossing, memoir of a guy who grew up in southie (the poor irish neighborhood in south boston) during the busing riots of the 1970's. i've lived in the boston area for most of the past 6 1/2 years, but i really didn't know much about southie other than that it was poor, white, and not the best place to be after dark. one of the things i loved about this book was that it showed the community that exists behind and beyond that stereotype.

what this book really showed me was how a well-
...more
Marisa
This book completely blew me away. I rarely give anything 5 stars but there was no question in this case. This is the true story of a poor white Irish-American family living in the projects in Southie. The writer was the 9th of 11 children and came of age during the seventies, right in the middle of busing and forced integration of housing projects. His story is unquestionably the most frightening story of urban poverty I've ever read, only in part because it's a true story. The fear this family ...more
Cathy
This was one of those books that you ought to read if you are from South Boston ("Southie") and that you should read if you are not from Southie. A touching memoir, at times sad, horrific, and even traumatizing but ultimately leaving the reader with hope for the future.
I had to read this book for school so it was the first non-Chick Lit book I've read in a long while. As you mihgt imagine, what a change! It actually took me a little bit to get into this book; I think mostly because this book wa
...more
Teresa
Describes the life and times of the MacDonald family in the Old Colony section of South Boston. Ma MacDonald struggles to raise her large brood by living on Welfare, playing the accordion at night in local watering holes, and taking advantage of any opportunity to get more for less. It's a tough area and by the age of six the children have usually been at least one serious brawl to gain the respect of their peers. As they grow the kids learn to lie, steal and run scams at the same time they face ...more
Debra Anne
"Even when we want to say their names, we sometimes get confused about who's dead and who's alive in my family." This sentence in the first paragraph hooked me.

The MacDonald family is gloriously dysfunctional, brought up by a single mother whose wisdom is matched only by her wildness. But MacDonald leaves us no doubt that his guitar-playing, man-loving mother loves her children, against all the odds of poverty and violence and failed romance.

This memoir is set in Southie, the community in Boston
...more
Christine Henry
This is a gripping portrayal of a family living in the public housing projects of Boston, in the Irish neighborhood called Southie in the 1960s-1980s. Full of insight into the impact that poverty and violence has on the people in his life, Michael MacDonald paints a loving portrait of both his immediate family and his extended family, the community. Repeatedly describing his neighborhood as the best place on earth, he shines light into the corners of adversity and suffering. Drugs, gangs, and me ...more
Arianna
It was fascinating to see the world of Southie through the eyes of a young Boston Irish boy during the 70s and 80s. We've all heard of the race riots due to busing, but it was very compelling seeing the history not only through the eyes of someone who was there, but also through the eyes of a young, white boy. MacDonald writes well, and my only complaint might have been that a few of his stories felt like they built up well but ended without anything really happening; but one must remember that ...more
Jenny Becker
This book was extremely shocking and pretty disturbing. I love the author's style of narrative and I found myself almost loving Southie, myself. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to throw the book at the wall, and I gawked at the wall sometimes. The way the author just came out and said things exactly as they were was very insightful. I would recommend this book to those who think that the worst of the ghetto neighborhoods are predominantly African American. I now that Southie should be ranked up the ...more
Megan
From the busing riots, to the exploits of Whitey Bulger, to the every day scene of poverty and drugs, my eyes were opened to what life was really like in South Boston in the 60's,70's and 80's. The powerful influence of the Catholic Church and the Irish mob is chronicled along with the damaging effects of the "no snitch" culture of Southie. Although this story is filled with unbelievable tragedy, the author highlights joyful moments and in the end is hopeful for change. This is a great read for ...more
Athena
I was born and raised in New England and I have heard at one point that Southie is pretty tough, but I never really cared enough to think about it. It was usually mentioned by guys that bragged about being from that area and I just don't find violence impressive.
I think it is great that Michael MacDonald overcame so many obstacles to have found a positive role in such an ugly place. He's well educated and an activist for safety in Boston suburbs.
While I'm all about anti violence I think people
...more
Angelea
I liked the story, though most of it was tragic. I did not care as much for the writing style. It just seemed like it ran on and on without any (or many) pivotal moments. There were pivotal points in the author's life, but I didn't feel he necessarily captured or reflected on them in his writing. An interesting book.
Jessica
A very gripping and powerful memoir about MacDonald's experiences growing up in the Southie neighborhood of Boston in the 1970's. The neighborhood was one of the poorest in the nation and was the home of the Irish Mob and the school-bussing riots. Definitely an eye-opener!
Dawn
A passionate memoir from an author who feels strongly about the place he came from and the community he carries within. MacDonald, the author, makes no bones about the fact the neighborhood he grew up in was full of violence, poverty and drugs, an unholy trinity partially blessed by corrupt politicians and local police force. But it was also a real community and identified itself as such.
MacDonald definitely carries his own biases, against the media, liberals, and others he saw as the enemy com
...more
Emily
In the memoir All Souls A Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald is a story about a family that has seen and been through it all. The author inspires a message of hope and faith.


Michael and his family grew up in what they called “The best place in the world”, the Old Colony projects in South Boston. The author lets us in on all the things that not only happened to him, but also his family. Causing him and the family pain and suffer. Southie was an area where the people collect
...more
Marika
Wow! All I did was look at the inside front cover. There's a list of the 11 kids, their dates of birth (9 btn 1956 and 1966, and 2 in 1975 and 1976), their dates of death (4 of them) and one period of coma ... This is going to be a hell of a story ..

It was an incredible story told in a very credible voice. The death and loss was delivered to the reader more in the sense of a roll call than with great drama. But then, there was so much death and loss, I'm not sure any reader could take it if it w
...more
Karyl
An amazing, heart-wrenching memoir about growing up in the projects of South Boston. I picked this book up mainly because the cover made reference to Angela's Ashes, a book I had enjoyed reading. I can't really say I enjoyed reading All Souls because the subject matter is just so depressing. Michael Patrick MacDonald was born and raised in the projects of "Southie," an area rife with drugs, violence, and suicide, but ignored by advocacy groups for many years because of the code of silence that p ...more
Bianca Nargi
All Souls written by, Michael Patrick MacDonald, is an autobiography about his life and the many experiences he had living in South Boston. It begins with MacDonald giving a tour to a reporter. He brought him to all of the famous corner stores, bars, and hangouts. He described specific events that occurred there, like suicides, robberies, and murders. Everything that was described to the reporter seemed normal to MacDonald because they were part of his life style, but the reporter was astonished ...more
Robin
All Souls was a real eye-opener for me. I decided to read it because of Whitey Bulger's recent arrest, but I took much more from it than I expected to. I'm a somewhat new resident of Boston; I've been here for about six years. This book reminds me that you can live in a city for a long time- forever, maybe- and not genuinely know it. I'm not super familiar with Southie; I've been there a handful of times. I'm not even sure if the Southie described in this book still exists. Even the parts of All ...more
Kate
I've read other memoirs about growing up in slums, destitute, fatherless (e.g. Angela's Ashes) and didn't expect All Souls to measure up. Although the literary quality of the writing is somewhat lacking, the story Michael Patrick MacDonald relays is riveting and powerful. I especially enjoyed how honest he was about the racism people naturally inherited when growing up in Boston - Southie, Roxbury, Dorchester, Charlestown - it didn't matter where you were from, racism was just the way of life an ...more
Abraham
A beautiful, nuanced story about the complexity of the busing crisis in Boston in the 70s. I don't trust any book about a social crisis that tries to paint different sides as "right" and "wrong," and MacDonald does a great job in this respect. As an Irish American who grew up in Southie during the crisis, he shows the reader the complexity of the situation that you might not get other places. I finished this book without blame, but with a sense of respect for the struggle on all sides...which is ...more
Deshawn
This book is a must read once you pick it up there is no way you can put it down. This book is action packed and i definitely recommend it to all of bostons population. I look at this book as a piece of bostons history. I learned so much of what was happening in boston before my days. I also learned alot about whitey bulgar the infamous southie king. This book was very good but at the same time very sad. I dont know what i wouldve done if my brothers and sister was dropping like flies due to dru ...more
Janellyn51
I knew enough project kids when I was young, to be totally fascinated with how thier minds worked. I grew up nearby, but with a cow farm at the bottome of my street. Southie, Old Colony, Columbia Point, give the sense of being annexed from Boston, and if you don't belong.... Although I was a lot older, Michael and I hung out in the Boston music scene at the same time. I find it remarkable that he can tell his story so dispassionately, without feeling sorry for himself. It wouldn't sound to many, ...more
Lisa
Books about white urban poverty are underrepresented in the literature, so All Souls: Family Story from Southie helps fill an important niche. Well-written, personal, and compelling, MacDonald does an excellent job of bringing his family and their close-knit neighborhood to life. His "view from the inside" of Southie provides an excellent counterbalance to the media characterizations of the neighborhood: Southie was not working class: it was poor. It was not drug-free: it was a swamp of addicts ...more
Leslie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patty
Lets face it some people have a much harder life than others as this book proves, and on top of fighting obvious issues in their poverty cruel world they have to also fight corruption within the legal system.

Regardless of whether you like her or not, your sure have to respect Helen MacDonald King, now that is one hell of a women, she came out fighting and never stopped. The pain she endure loosing so many children is heartbreaking.

Everyone should read this book to open their eyes to how some peo
...more
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Big Sister Reads: All Souls - General 9 33 Jun 18, 2012 08:23AM  
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51918
Michael Patrick MacDonald was born in Boston in 1966 and grew up in South Boston’s Old Colony housing project. He helped launch many of Boston’s anti violence initiatives, including gun-buyback programs and the South Boston Vigil Group which served to give voice to the survivors of violence and the drug trade in that neighborhood. He continues to work nationally with survivor families and young pe ...more
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“I remember hating having to cross over the Broadway Bridge again, having to leave the peninsula neighborhood and go back to my apartment in downtown Boston.” 3 likes
“It’s funny, I thought, how the people who seem the meanest, the people we want nothing to do with, might be in the most pain.” 1 likes
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