What sets this book apart is that Alice McDermott writes beautifully. Someone is a story of about an Irish-American family told by Marie. We meet her as a little girl in Brooklyn waiting for her father to come home. “Small city birds the color of ashes rose and fell along the rooftops. In the fading evening light, the stoop beneath my thighs, as warm as breath when I first sat down, now exhaled a shallow chill.” The paragraph continues to describe her neighbor: Mr. Chabeen, Big Lucy, a bully she fears, passing nuns and a game of stick ball. McDermott’s economic prose is often like poetry providing just enough detail to paint a delightful picture.
The book follows Marie through her life. The first third focuses primarily on her childhood, in large part because these are the events that shape her life. The story begins with her father working as a clerk, he is a frail man who gets sick while Marie is still very young. Marie’s older brother Gabe is a model student who goes to the seminary as a teenager. Marie’s mother is a strong woman, taking care of her husband and her children.
I found it interesting that McDermott makes minimal references to the world outside of Brooklyn and New York, and yet I always new roughly what decade it was and what the context of the story was.
Marie grows up, gets a job and falls in love. Her brother leaves the seminary suddenly and inexplicably. Later she gets married and has several children, who we also see grow up.The book jumps about in time here and there, but never in a way that detracts from the story.
This book is a demonstration of the difference between great writing and merely good story telling. Nothing wrong with good story telling,but great writing provides another pleasure entirely.