Teresa's Reviews > Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
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May 29, 07

Read in May, 2007

In Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt paints a picture of a childhood mired in poverty. He manages to be humorous and heartbreaking, and hopeless and triumphant all at once. I laughed, I cried, I felt dearly for the disadvantaged McCourt family that struggled against all odds.

The memoir borrows heavily from the art of realism -- as tales of impoverished childhoods usually are. McCourt was born in depression era Brooklyn to an alcoholic father who spent all his wages at the bar, and a mother disgraced and desperate to feed her starving children. Here, we have a glimpse at the life of an Irish family living in a ratty (but ethnically diverse) tenement building. The children were often left their own devices, while the adults struggled with adult problems -- keeping a home, putting food on the table, etc. Loss is a prevalent and recurring theme in the book. Frankie's siblings, as young as several months, were victims of death many times.

Things don't improve when they move back to Ireland to start over. Their North-Irish and alcoholic of a father couldn't find work, drank all the charity money they managed to get, and eventually abandoned his family for good. Meanwhile, the rest of the family must overcompensate by stealing, begging, and applying for public assistance -- the shame of which deeply affect each member of the family. Additionally, Frankie, a devout Catholic, must reconcile his church values and practices with stealing to feed his family, his sexual awakening, and the continuing deaths of his family and acquaintances.

All in all, fantastic depression-era slice-of-life of a poor Irish family. McCourt is soulful and has a way with weaving tales and building characters. He makes you laugh and cry with the family, and keeps you rooting for their survival. I was very engaged and was sorry it had to end (a bit too abruptly too, I must say.) Five stars.
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