Elizabeth K.'s Reviews > All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald
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's review
Aug 05, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: 2008-new-reads
Read in December, 2008

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 he grew up -- in predominantly white, Irish, South Boston -- and he wants to fix what's wrong with it, but in the book he's not very clear about what he is proposing that would improve things. I was also suffering from a low-grade embarrassment through most of the book, as he is very detailed about all the ways his mother was so wonderful, and I couldn't tell if he realized his mother was a terrible parent. I realize that all parents, to some extent, are a mix ... I mean I wouldn't presume to tell him his mother was a terrible parent if he was writing a book about his very excellent mother, BUT I think he was writing a book about what was wrong, sociologically, with the larger neighborhood environment, and it seemed obvious to me (but not to him) that his mother exemplified a lot of the negative behaviors that contributed to the problems.

Grade: B
Recommended: Probably only if you have a particular interest in Boston history or urban housing issues, but if you DO, then it's a good read.
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Rachel children love their mothers. mothers are not perfect. this mother grew up in an era and in an area where the decisions she made were not always her own. When reading this book, I was actually amazed at this mother's resolve. I think I would have been catatonic after the first babies' death. This man grew up with one thing we all take for granted...a strong mother. Could she have done better? Couldn't we all?

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