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We Are Not Ourselves

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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  4,561 ratings  ·  907 reviews
Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfe
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Hardcover, 620 pages
Published August 19th 2014 by Simon & Schuster
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Laura Leigh Stick with it! The pace is one of the qualities of this book that will move you in the end - you are tricked into living this family's life in the…moreStick with it! The pace is one of the qualities of this book that will move you in the end - you are tricked into living this family's life in the slow yet rapid way that we all live our lives. (less)
Clarkston AM Book Group Have you thought of going to your school or public library? It may even be available as an eBook that you can check out for free from your public…moreHave you thought of going to your school or public library? It may even be available as an eBook that you can check out for free from your public library. Support your libraries! (less)

Community Reviews

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Jenna  *Puddin Tame*
It was a bit hard for me to rate this review with stars. There were times that I thought that I was going to give it 3 and other times 5 stars, so I've settled in the middle of the two.

Instead of being plot-driven this book seems to be solely character-driven where you get a feel of the families individual idiosyncrasies and if you pay particular attention to detail, you can see how the twists and turns in their lives cause subtle changes in each character as you would in real life. This story i
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Denise
I wish I was a professional writer or reviewer so I could give this novel the brilliant review it deserves. But, alas, I am just a reader who is still processing and recovering from the last highly emotional pages of it. This is about as perfectly written as a novel can be.

Eileen Tumulty is born to Irish immigrants in Queens, New York. Her childhood was tumultuous, and she was forced to grow up sooner than most girls her age. She knew early on that she wanted more of a life for herself. She tho
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Louisa
Jun 13, 2014 Louisa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
The writing was fine. I just didn't feel for the characters and the book was 300 pages too long. This is the last time I read a book on an author's recommendation, yes Chad Harbach, I'm pointing my finger at you!
switterbug (Betsey)
I just finished reading and reviewing a novel about home, identity, and how unexpected human developments/illness can capsize lives, called THE ARSONIST, by Sue Miller. And here are those themes again, but in a much different style, plot, and story. Thomas's debut novel is an epic saga, a tersely executed but moving tale of an Irish-American family, and spans a few generations, from the early 1950s to 2011. The story predominantly focuses on Eileen Tumulty, who is a first generation American, an ...more
Richard
Who'd a thunk it? I won this as a result of entering a Goodreads giveaway. I am a lucky First Reads winner!

Sept. 25/14: And the book has finally arrived! (Although I'm not sure how long it has been waiting in the mailbox...)

This is the story of an Irish American girl from New York named Eileen Tumulty, who, because of her less-than-ideal family situation, is forced to care for her parents and grow up too fast. She falls for an odd but endearing scientist named Ed Leary, and they are soon married
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Patrick Brown
The word I keep coming back to with this book is "honest." No punches pulled here. These characters might let you down, they might not do what you want them to do in every instance, but damn if they don't feel real throughout. Still, the second half of this book is an epic, gut-punch of a page-turner. Highly recommended.
Carol
Sep 12, 2014 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: debut
How can We Are Not Ourselves be a debut novel? If you had the opportunity to hear Matthew Thomas explain it, it would make sense. Ten years, yes ten years of hard work, tweaking and self- editing before he even tried to sell his manuscript. Ten years. Thomas' diligence paid off in a bidding war for his novel and with glowing early reviews from professionals and readers alike.

It was enlightening to hear Matthew Thomas speak at R.J. Julia's in Madison, CT this past Monday evening. It also makes m
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Debbie "DJ" Wilson
ARC through NetGalley. Thank you NetGalley!

First I should say this is a very long read. Some parts of this story held my interest, while others left me indifferent. It is often written in the third person, as such, this story is mostly told rather than felt.

It begins in the 1950's childhood of our main character Eileen. Coming from a painful Irish immigrant background, Eileen wants more out of life. If fact, this is the main theme of the story. She is always looking for greener pastures, cares o
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Jill
When a debut book sparks a bidding war on both sides of the Atlantic, the inevitable question is, “Is it worth all the hype?”

The answer, I’m pleased to say, is mostly “yes.”

Oh sure, there are some quibbles. The opening 100 pages – the background information that fleshes out the characters – could be edited down a bit. A very minor character appears in the second half of the book and I had to wade back through pages to remind myself who she was. Another minor character’s part could easily have be
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Angela
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for this ARC
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3.5 if I could give half stars.

There are no perfect people in this book . I liked them one minute and didn't like them the next and then liked them again. That's pretty much how I felt about the book overall because for me it's really a character driven story rather than one that is driven by the plot.

A lot of ground is covered here. The early part of the book is actually my favorite par
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Aidan Byrne
This is as close to perfect as you're going to get, not just from a debut novel, but from any novel, period. There's such great heart in here. Primarily, the story focuses on Eileen Leary, a tough-as-nails nurse originally from Woodside, Queens, but each member of the family—Big Mike, Eileen's father; Ed, her husband; and Connell, her son—gets his due. You feel irretrievably drawn to all of them, so that every heartbreak, either minor or major, becomes your heartbreak and grips you long after yo ...more
Jessica
I may try to come back to this later, but I should note that it has taken me nearly a month to read the first 200 pages of this novel -- when I normally go through 2-3 books a week. Honestly? I think it's very well written, I'm just bored.
Molly
Spectacular. I cried through the last third, and I'm not much of a crier. And I found myself constantly astounded that this is a first novel. Six hundred pages and none of it wasted.
Cheryl
Points for keeping me reading it even though at first I wasn't too interested. Still....the flow kept pulling me.
But it came into its own about a third of the way in, as the real story began to emerge. Alzheimer's has such an insidious onset that it is hard to recognise at first. It gathers strength and becomes progressively disruptive of the mind, the personality, and the family. This was exceptionally well described and touching. And the letter toward the end squeezed a sob out, so bumped up f
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Michael
I don't think I'm qualified to declare this book a "Great American Novel," so I'll just call it a Great American Story... one whose quiet power I will long remember.
Nicole Overmoyer
WE ARE NOT OURSELVES by Matthew Thomas is a novel that starts off with a bang – the murder of a frog and a father abusing his son for it. Unfortunately, the bang fizzles quickly. The opening scene was something this reader wants to know more about – who the boy and the father are, for example. This reader is disappointed.

Thomas moves swiftly from the frog and the abuse to the small daughter of Irish immigrants to New York City. There is no little boy in sight.

Eileen Tumulty is interesting enough
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Rose Mary Achey
Raw emotion-that is what I felt reading We Are Not Ourselves. This debut work is about a family…not the wider world or the major events of the more than six decades it covers, just a family. Not even an extraordinary family, just a typical American family with so many dreams and aspirations-some of which will be accomplished, but many more will be rationalized or compromised away.

This book will leave you thinking deeply about your own life, your family and your place in the world. Stunning bea
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Lori
This was a very moving account of a families journey through life and all of its inevitable struggles!!! The characters were so 'real' and came to life through Thomas's writing!!! What I walk away from this novel with a profound appreciation for families struggling with major health issues... It, also, made me realize that the little moments, with the people we love, are the moments we will remember and cherish the most!!! 4.5 stars...
Thebakingbookworm
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: Lately I've been on a search to find a great sweeping saga of a read - one that spans a couple of generations and has a lot of drama. So when I read the description of this book on NetGalley it seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

This book was described as 'epic in scope' so I suppose I was expecting much more of a intergenerati
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Mary Lins
“We Are Not Ourselves”, by Matthew Thomas, was recommended to me by a close reading friend who warned me that this novel is a “slow boil” and I wouldn’t realize what all the fuss was about until I’d been into it for a while. But I have to confess, I never did get to the point that I understood why there had been a bidding war in the publishing world over it. For me, it’s reasonably entertaining and interesting, but by no means magnificent.

It tells the story of Eileen Leary and her “absentminded
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Gail Strickland
The writing was just O.K. but it's 640 pages of unrelenting misery. Eileen, the main character, always wants more..more money, a better house, more prestige in her job, a bigger job for her husband...just MORE. If that's not irritating enough, it's all about her and I do mean ALL. Eileen thinks if she can just obtain the next thing, her life will be perfect until the next big thing comes along and she's again wanting more and more.

If there is a more depressing book, I don't want to know about it
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Natasha
Did not finish. Characters were flat and plot mundane. It was just unrelenting misery throughout the story - alcoholism, miscarriages, death, illness, bullying - and that was only the first quarter of the book! I know I am in the minority as most people loved this book - but I needed to see a glimmer of hope (or even a likeable character), and Matthew Thomas failed to deliver it.
Paul Pessolano
“We Are Not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas, published by Simon and Schuster.

Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – August 19, 2014

The original publication date for this book was September, I believe it has been moved up because of the quality of the book and advanced praise for its content. Mu suggestion is if you use the library get your name on the reservation list as soon as possible, and if you are buying the book pre-order the book now. Eileen Tumulty was born in 1941 of Irish paren
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Janet Schneider
In a sweeping story of post-WWII-to-the-recent-past second-generation Irish New York, author Matthew Thomas has brilliantly rendered the emotional and existential journeys of Eileen Tumulty, as well as the fascinating ethos of a specific time, place and demographic group. Authentically told with the clean, sparse language illustrative of a life lived entirely with little outward emotion, We Are Not Ourselves tells in a linear fashion the life journey Eileen makes from her mid-1950s girlhood to a ...more
Dan Radovich
I forget the last time that a book brought tears to my eyes, but Matthew Thomas's writing has done it. WE ARE NOT OURSELVES is a huge book - a family saga told with some of the most gorgeous prose I have read in a long time. Another Irish-American family story, this one tells the tale of Eileen Leary (Tumulty) from childhood well into married life. Post WWII Queens, New York is the setting of Eileen's childhood, and Thomas brings it to vivid life. Every part of this book is masterfully written. ...more
Bergin
A truly perfect book that oozes humanity and is a sheer delight to read. It is a page turner--it has been a long while since this mom of two has been able to read 250 pages in one sitting! But once Thomas draws you into Eileen's world, it is hard to escape. Thomas' incredible command of language is awe-inspiring. It is rare that a writer with such skill and mastery can produce a work that is also so accessible. It almost wouldn't matter what subject Thomas wrote about, as he has such talent. But ...more
Karen
I wish I could give this book more stars. Matthew Thomas weaves a story of Eileen Tumulty, from childhood through middle-age, and brings along characters who play a major role in shaping her life. Eileen yearns for a better life for herself. After she is married she sets certain benchmarks for what constitutes "success"--the right career for her husband, a home in a good neighborhood, the right school for her son. She never quite gets all that she yearns for and as the tragedy of her husband's s ...more
Po Po
Ahhh, what can I say that hasn't already been said? It's an All-American love story. It's soft yet strong, gentle yet fierce, tender yet tough, sweet and bittersweet, heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once.

I couldn't help but hear Neil Diamond's "America" (or is it "Coming to America"?) over and over in my head as I read this. This is an immigrant's story: a simple story of hope, the American Dream, infinite ambition, acceptance, and moving forward against all odds. We learn that nothing is
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Maureen
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.

What a great read! This novel follows an Irish-American family through several generations in New York. Each and every character comes to life, from the main character, Eileen, right down to the boys she encounters on the streets. The settings in Jackson Heights and then in Westchester county are beautifully crafted to show the readers not only the good, the bad and the ugly of the changing neighborhoods, but how as the character of Eileen grows, her
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Maufran
I have just finished reading this incredibly well-construced book. I felt as though I was living as a fly on the wall in the life of the Learys - Eileen, Ed and Connell -it was written with such sensitivity and beauty. The subject of an academic having Alzheimer's Disease is not an easy thing to write about but the writer tackled it with great depth and understanding. I found the bond between father and son very moving and there were many passages in the book which were very thought-provoking.

I
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Hopeful Wanderers: We Are Not Ourselves 2 29 Oct 01, 2014 02:57AM  
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Matthew Thomas was born in the Bronx and grew up in Queens. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he has an MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MFA from the University of California, Irvine. His New York Times-bestselling novel WE ARE NOT OURSELVES has been shortlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction and longlisted for the Guardi ...more
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“Sometimes, she thought, life makes you grow up early. And some people never grow up at all.” 14 likes
“So much of life was the peeling away of illusions.” 9 likes
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