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We Are Not Ourselves

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  10,449 ratings  ·  1,824 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
Hardcover, 620 pages
Published August 19th 2014 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2014)
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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)
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31st out of 345 books — 1,231 voters
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Man Booker Prize Eligible 2014
47th out of 163 books — 557 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Angela M
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for this ARC
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
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
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
Kiersten Gawronski
As bored with this book as Eileen was with her life. 100 pages in I figured something needed to change, and if it wasn't going to be her, it had to be me.
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.
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
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
Barbara Backus

“Polished prose” (The New York Times), “epic of small events” (Los Angeles Times) and “extraordinary portrait of Alzheimer’s disease” (The Guardian). I would have to agree with this last comment about the depiction of Alzheimer’s but not with most of the praise given to this first novel.

I struggled with it, exasperated on almost every page by both the emphasis on too many unnecessary details on one hand with not enough illuminating details on the other. Then, there’s the often cumbersome writi
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
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
The Baking Bookworm
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
This was a very moving account of a families journey through life and all of its inevitable struggles. It dragged a bit in the middle, but 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. 3.5 stars...
Diane Barnes
There were times in the early stages of reading this book that I was certain it would only get 3 stars from me. It wasn't badly written, but not beautifully written. It felt at times as though chunks of the story were missing or skipped over, and story characters were a little confusing in their thoughts and actions. Not the kind of writing I wanted to devote 600 pages to, but it was for a book club assignment, so I needed to persevere.
But then Eileen, her husband Ed, and their son Connell are d
PacaLipstick Gramma
I won an ARC from a Goodreads Giveaway.

I have no idea why I read all 620 pages of this book. Maybe it was the glowing letter written on the first page, as an introduction, by the V.P./Editor-in-Chief, Marysue Rucci, that she has worked in publishing for over 20 years and this is a magnificent and moving debut novel. If she had to wait 20 years for another, it would be worth the wait.

I have not worked in publishing, I am merely a reader. I enjoy books that move me. Be it to tears, laughter, or in
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
For the second time this year, unplanned and unaware, I have ended up experiencing multiple books/movies/media on the same subject.

I had no idea what the subject of this book was, just that my friends were reading it and recommending it. And that's enough for me. Imagine the impact of watching Still Alice in the theater the night Julianne Moore won the Academy Award (well deserved!) AND finishing this book the next day? Devastating.

It has taken me a few days to even think of what to write. Thi
My reaction to this book is has been overhyped as an epic about an Irish American family. The story centers on Eileen Tumulty who marries Edmund Leary. They live in Woodside Queens and eventually have a son, Connell. Eileen is a nurse and Ed is a scientist who teaches at Bronx Community College. Ed has few ambitions except to do his research. Eileen is upwardly mobile and this leads to conflict between the two. Although this is described as a novel about an Irish American family, the only thing ...more
With only hours left on the non-renewable library loan, I managed to finish this epic family saga spanning from the 1940s to around 2000 (and an epilogue set in 2011). The slow, quiet pace of the non-emotive story telling of the first half of the book reminded me a lot of Stoner. A small nuclear family, descendants of Irish immigrants, and their life in post-war New York are described in everyday details, with a fraught, sometimes loveless marital relationship at the core that gets repeated in t ...more
The only thing worse than reading 282 pages of this book would have been reading 283 pages of this book. That many pages equates an entire (other) novel I could have been engaged in! It felt as if Thomas was quietly observing very boring lives unfolding in front of him and decided to document it. It's too bad because the first line had me thinking I might be reading a family saga akin to 'Angela's Ashes'. The daughter, Eileen, is brought into the pub where her charismatic Irish father is easily ...more
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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, longlisted for the Guardian ...more
More about Matthew Thomas...

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“Sometimes, she thought, life makes you grow up early. And some people never grow up at all.” 19 likes
“So much of life was the peeling away of illusions.” 13 likes
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