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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  9,259 ratings  ·  1,398 reviews
A fully realized portrait ofone woman’s lifein all its complexity, by the National Book Award–winning author

An ordinary life—its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion—lived by an ordinary woman: this is the subject of Someone, Alice McDermott’s extraordinary return, seven years after the publication of After This. Scattered recolle
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2013)
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Chris Reid I was about to write my review for SOMEONE when I came across your question. My first reaction is that given that you asked this question more than a…moreI was about to write my review for SOMEONE when I came across your question. My first reaction is that given that you asked this question more than a month ago, I hope you pressed ahead and finished the book, as I would like to think you would have found it well worth your while. I certainly agree that it has a totally different pace than a thriller. I think I had just read WHITE NIGHTS by Ann Cleeves. SOMEONE falls in a rather different category. It is a small jewel of a book, a first rate work of literary fiction, which draws one into the world of Brooklyn between WWI and WWII. Funny, sad. Lifelike. It gives the readers ways to look at people living inside the lives that most of us have and live. And shows how these have meaning and relevance.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Robert Blumenthal
I remember conversations with the school librarian at the elementary school where I first taught. He spoke fondly of older children's books, such as Blueberries for Sal or The Story of Ping. He called these children's books "Quiet stories." That is how I think of the novel Someone by Alice McDermott. It is not a novel where a lot of exciting things happen. It reminds me of the short stories The Dubliners by James Joyce. The prose is exquisite and the writing is so self-assured. The novel is rela ...more
Martie Nees Record
I have been a book lover/book junkie for decades. Still it is a first for me to finish the last word on the last page and then immediately go back to the first page and re-read the whole book again. The author's flawless writing gives an explanation on why McDermont has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize. I can imagine why a five star rating could be questioned; this is a story about nothing and everything, a human life. Others might find our personal story rather mundane yet when ...more
From a purely intellectual standpoint, I understand and even appreciate (I think) what McDermott is trying to do. She's writing about a woman, and an unbeautiful one, and her relationship with her own body throughout her life. The novel's main character is probably born in the 1930s(?) and we get glimpses into key moments of her life--important moments in her childhood, the first time she falls in love, her first real job, illnesses, her wedding day, the birth of her first child--all these puzzl ...more
Barbara Backus
An exquisite novel of an "unremarkable woman's unforgettable life." Recollecting details from when she was seven-years-old sitting on the stoop of her Brooklyn home to when she's an old woman, Marie Comerford reminds us of how the ordinary people who fill our youth, adolescence and adulthood impact our ordinary existence.

Alice McDermott's novel might appear simplistic at first glance, but it is filled with deep understanding as she turns from one era to the next to portray Marie. Having lived th
"Someone" is a quiet novel, like a black and white movie for old souls. I adored the book, the author's melodic prose and the way her every day characters related to each other in an unspoken way through a knowingness and acceptance of each other, and their faith in their respectful relationships with each other. Life is, after all, one leap of faith after another. Some successful, and some not, but we all hope for the best, and we all hope to have a relationship with a special "Someone." Enjoy! ...more
Beautifully written ~ slower pacing, detailed descriptions which pull you into each setting. It took me longer to get into Marie's character, but once I did, I was eager to read further. The description of her experience with childbirth was extremely harrowing! I flew through that chapter. The ending was disappointing for me...after finally becoming invested in the main characters, I felt that the book might be going somewhere. But, it fell flat. Maybe that was the point of the book to seem like ...more
What is remarkable about this novel is how Alice McDermott is able to create seven fully-realized decades in the life of Marie Commeford in just over 200 pages. When the novel opens, we met a 7-year-old Marie sitting on her front stoop and developing those "easy bonds" with the other Irish immigrants in her Brooklyn neighborhood. We laugh when she sabotages the soda bread so that her mother will be reluctant to seek her help in the kitchen in the future. We stand in the chill as she waits for he ...more
Gary  the Bookworm

"It was the first light my poor eyes ever knew. Recalling it, I sometimes wonder if all the faith and all the fancy, all the fear, the speculation, all the wild imaginings that go into the study of heaven and hell, don’t shortchange, after all, that other, earlier uncertainty: the darkness before the slow coming to awareness of the first light." Alice McDermott

Alice McDermott is a minimalist. Her specialty is capturing the poetry of everyday life. In Someone she masterfully demonstrates the writ
Mimi Jones
Another quiet beauty by Alice McDermott, a lens focused minutely yet compassionately on an "ordinary" life (though McDermott disproves that any such thing exists). In patchwork fashion, leaping back and forth in time, McDermott pieces together the entire lifespan of Marie Commeford: her childhood with her older brother Gabe and her parents in an Irish-American neighborhood in Brooklyn in the 30s; her young womanhood working in the local funeral home as a receptionist and "consoling angel"; her h ...more
I normally try to give a book at least 50 pages before abandoning it, but I couldn't do that here. It was obvious from the get-go that this book and I were not meant to be. Sorry, book -- it's not you, it's me.

Alice McDermott turns a lovely phrase. Her sentences are poetic and evocative. For many goodreaders, it seems, that's enough, or even more than enough. Not for me.

The few pages I read were highly disjointed, with abrupt and unexpected jumps back and forth in time for no apparent reason. I
I love Alice McDermott. I don't think anyone is better at rendering *ordinary* lives extraordinary through brilliant writing. The details she chooses and the language she uses create a world so visually and emotionally rich that sometimes I find myself holding my breath while reading. For me, she's the literary equivalent of a brilliant figure skater or gymnast.
I have come to realize after many, many years of reading , that sometimes the best books... the ones that stay with you the longest... are the ones that seemingly, on the surface , don't seem to be about anything at all. "Someone" by Alice McDermott is one of those books for me.

This story begins on a Brooklyn stoop in the pre-Depression years, where Marie, a little girl about seven years old awaits her father's return from work. The story is told in Marie's voice and takes the reader from the p
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
Brooklyn is in my blood. Yes, I was born there, but shortly thereafter my parents moved to the suburbs. Especially on my 100% Irish Catholic mother's side, our family has a long history there. So it was natural I would reach for Someone by Alice McDermott. Within a few pages, I knew not only that this was a book I would enjoy, but also that I would want to read it more than once. The book seemed near-sacramental. Someone seemed to recreate my mother's milieu during the World War II years. Every ...more
In precise and understated language, Alice McDermott tells the story of Marie, an "ordinary" woman and her full, eventful life. We see her as a shy child quietly observing the goings-on on her street in Brooklyn, then as a yearning adolescent, as a bride and young mother, and finally as an elderly widow. We are struck by how intense and important tiny events are & how deeply felt. The author describes the newly widowed Marie drying her hands "in her own efficient, getting-on-with-it way." No ...more
The reader will not want this book to end. It is such a marvelous, easy to read story told through Marie’s memories as she looks back over the years recalling the things that were meaningful in her life. It is told in an uncomplicated, simple, straight-forward way in which all life-cycle events, some major and some minor, play a role. As the pages turn, we witness births, deaths, tragedies, joys, marriages, illnesses, milestones and setbacks, dreams and nightmares. Family devotion and loyalty, s ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Bap rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
This may be Alice's favorite writer. She grew up in long island, attended catholic schools , and then one of the SUCO colleges. She is four years younger than I am. She is a master of capturing post war long island, especially Irish Catholics. She expands her horizon in this exquisite knowledge set mostly in Brooklyn before the move out to long island. It is also a generation earlier. She captures the time of her, and my own, parents. Marie remembers growing up with lace curtain Irish parents, h ...more
This is a quiet, unassuming book about a woman, Marie, born in Brooklyn in the 1930's(?). The author reveals Marie's life to us in chapters. She may be young in one chapter and then an old woman in the next. Normal life events happen to her, but nothing so out of the ordinary that reader can't relate to her thoughts and feelings. One thing that I noted while reading that was special about the book was the imagery McDermott was able to create with words. The way the light may come through the win ...more
Alice McDermott's Someone is everyone. Marie, the main character, lives her ordinary life, which of course is extraordinary in the way that everyone's life is. She has a brother and parents, though her larger family is the mostly Irish "neighborhood". There are the gang of kids who play ball, the blind neighbor who watches their every move and the ambulances which take neighbors away and often return them to Fagin's Funeral Parlor. Of course the church and alcohol are bedrocks in this community. ...more
No one writes about the Irish American experience better than Alice McDermott. Her National Book Award winning novel, Charming Billy, is the perfect example of that.

Her latest novel, Someone, tells the story of Marie, an ordinary Irish American girl growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940s. Marie waits on her stoop everyday for her beloved father to come home from work, watching the activity on the block- the boys playing stickball, Billy Corrigan, blinded from the war, umpiring the game, and the men
I tip my hat to Ms. McDermott. Writing about matters of the heart should be left to only the best of the professionals. I won't try this at my home, that's for sure. I'd read a few pages and then find myself stopping and asking, "Well, well, well, how did she do that?"

Someone is a fictional memoir of a hermetic life in an Irish Brooklyn neighborhood during the mid-20th century. If real memoirs would be this good, I wouldn't have to read fiction. But they aren't. Here we get a first person narrat

Typically I write up these little "review" within 24 hours of finishing a book. But here, I finished it on the plane to vacation and here I am a week later. I recall feeling that Alice McDermott's Someone fizzled out a bit in the end, but with the time passage I am also thinking it hasn't "stuck" much either.

This is a bit of surprise as I was impressed throughout much of this novel. It is beautifully written. McDermott made me feel like I was watching her paint the scenes. Slow, deliberate, rich
Jim Elkins
I had to stop reading this. McDermott's writing is careful and clean, as the reviewers say, and that is definitely a pleasure. But there is a limit to how much time I want to spend with a book that could have been written in 1950. To be fair, the book is set in the 20th century, but it bothers me that it has no signs of having been written in the present. It is almost the case that there is not a single word, idea, image, thought, sentiment, or narrative device that couldn't be found in book pub ...more
When I heard Ms McDermott, live, speaking and also reading a chapter from SOMEONE, I responded by "inviting her to be my inner voice," while I entered the Brooklyn neighborhood she writes about in this book.

I especially appreciate Ms McDermott's way of letting us know how her Irish immigrant and 1st generation characters feel about the place they live, which is what she told us, when I saw her, live, is more important than providing too many authentic details about the place. (at least for a nov
I have long been a fan of Alice McDermott's work, have read all of her novels, and anticipated the arrival of her most recent novel, Someone, eagerly. It delivered all the usual satisfactions of her earlier work, and it felt like to return to a familiar and beloved place.

McDermott's approach is somewhat different from many novelists writing today. There is nothing histrionic, aggressive, or insistent in her method and style. She tells the story of a humble working class woman from the mid twent
Kasa Cotugno
According to my records, I read this book a year ago but failed to post a review. I must have liked it because I gave it 4 stars, but have absolutely no recollection of it. Astounding. I must have been in a coma. When my book club chose to read it, I felt it was the first time I was reading it -- such a wonderful book. The consensus was unanimous with the book club. McDermott's use of imagery, her sensual yet evocative descriptions of light in its many forms, light as metaphor, light as memory t ...more
Lorine Kritzer
Despite Someone not having much of a plot, McDermott's scenes are so vivid that the plot becomes secondary. Of course, I am saying this as a fiction writer. That being said, I still think that book groups that are accustomed to reading literary fiction will enjoy reading and discussing this book. There are so many topics: the life of an Irish-Catholic family with lace curtain aspirations at a time in Brooklyn when the neighborhood was the center of life; Gabe's leaving the priesthood and his sub ...more
Laura McNeal
I love it when a book's title has kaleidoscopic qualities. There's the moment when the narrator's brother says to her, in answer to the anguished question of who will love her, "Someone," and then we meet that Someone, but throughout the novel there's also the larger, existential, nebulous idea of being or becoming Someone. In McDermott's novels, the intricate obligations of family and faith impose their own limits on that process, and in her neighborhoods and families the whole expanse of human ...more
Angela M
The writing is just so perfect that you feel as though you are there sitting on the stoop with 7 year old Marie waiting for her father to come home from work. As Marie's narrative seems to seamlessly glide between times in her life , you can see it and feel it - all of the events in this simple , ordinary life she leads . This book is filled with emotion and Alice McDermott makes you care about everything that happens to Marie. Reading this reminded me of her other wonderful books , Charming Bil ...more
JoAnne Pulcino

Alice McDermott

Someone is the marvelous achievement of a vibrant depiction of an ordinary woman’s life. The short novel is the scattered recollections of a woman from her childhood to old age.

In a very simplistic yet powerful narrative Ms. McDermott manages to bring to life the strengths, the joys, and the insights of a normal life with an almost uncanny realism. This same realism never overwhelms the events in the book or your enjoyment of the beautiful vignettes.
An exquisitely written story about a mostly ordinary Irish-American working class woman, and her life from, little girl in the 20s to very old woman some time around now. The book picks up, in a way, where Tree Grows in Brooklyn leaves off - Marie sits on a stoop about 10 years after we last see Francie sitting on one, and Marie's family is less troubled and more upwardly mobile than Francie Nolan's, but many of the themes are the same. Someone is a love poem to Brooklyn too - an elegy for a nei ...more
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Book Keeping: Someone by Alice McDermott 1 22 Jan 30, 2014 10:49AM  
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Alice McDermott (born June 27, 1953) is Johns Hopkins University's Writer-in-Residence. Born in Brooklyn, New York, McDermott attended St. Boniface School in Elmont, Long Island, NY [1967], Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead NY [1971], the State University of New York at Oswego, receiving her BA in 1975, and later received her MA from the University of New Hampshire in 1978.

She has taught at the UC
More about Alice McDermott...
Charming Billy After This Child of My Heart That Night At Weddings and Wakes

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“My love for the child asleep in the crib, the child's need for me, for my vigilance, had made my life valuable in a way that even the most abundantly offered love, my parents', my brother's, even Tom's, had failed to do. Love was required of me now--to be given, not merely to be sought and returned.” 15 likes
“And then I saw him waving to us from behind the sky’s reflection.” 3 likes
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