Doug Tattershall's Reviews > The Edge of Sadness

The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
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's review
Oct 08, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: catholic, read-by-me
Read in October, 2011

If the edge of sadness is melancholy, then this might be an aptly-titled book, but I think the title is its primary flaw. I imagine a lot of people skip over "The Edge of Sadness" because of the title, not expecting humor, warmth, and even illumination. Through dialogue and only the simplest of plots, the book looks from the inside at the post-war culture of northeastern Irish Americans, with the colorful and often hilarious children of immigrants now grown old juxtaposed with their children and grandchildren, more world-wise, more polished, but lacking the character and connectedness of their elders (reading it now, 50 years later, the succeeding generations--the children and grandchildren of the book's youngest characters--almost become an unmentioned part of the book). This engaging window on a moment in time and a particular culture kept me reading, but the story itself runs deeper, into the areas of love, forgiveness, growing old, and finding meaning in life. The dinner conversation of the old guard at Charlie Carmody's birthday party early in the book was side-splittingly funny. This scene alone would have made the book memorable, but what O'Connor did best was hint at the spiritual lives of his characters in authentic ways. He did this not by attempting to present their spiritual lives; this almost certainly would have failed. Instead, he revealed just enough at just the right time, with simple, well-placed statements.
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10/24/2011 page 200
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Gina Devito If I weren't so lazy, I would have sat down to write the same review you did. Certainly you captured all my thoughts. The conversation at the birthday party could have been at one my family's birthday parties in the same time period and for years continuing after. By the time I was a teenager, I sat in baffled amazement listening to them.

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