Reviewed: “We Are Not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas

We Are Not OurselvesWE 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 for a while.

Not for long, but for a while.

She grows from a wide-eyed girl ready to conquer the world to a jaded young woman in a very short span of time. Her father dotes on her and her mother mostly ignores her. There’s a boarder in their house who plays the clarinet and he’s interesting but he disappears almost as fast as the boy and the frog.

As girl children of immigrants, and girl children in general, are wont to do, Eileen marries a man she figures she must love. It’s a very odd sort of love, to be honest. Mostly, Eileen and Ed are ships passing in the night. The night being, of course, when Thomas makes the point again and again that marital relations are just fine in bed.

When they have a son after years of trying and failing, everything starts to crumble.

This seems due in part to Ed’s total disinterest in family and marriage and the constantly evolving racism that grows in Eileen. She is absolutely convinced that she is not racist but anyone who reads this book will see that she is. And she really could do something about it. But she doesn’t.

All this happened in a quarter of the book. I stopped reading when my Kindle told me I was at 25% and I realized I no longer particularly cared what happened to these people.

I’m still a little curious about the boy who murdered the frog, but I’m not that curious.

The blurb that attracted me to this book on NetGalley mentioned the words masterwork, powerfully moving, epic in scope, heroic in character…

I didn’t get those things. I’m sure someone else will.

(I received a copy of WE ARE NOT OURSELVES via NetGalley in return for an honest review. My thoughts are my own. This review will be cross-posted on NetGalley, Goodreads, and my blog.)

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