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I'll Know It When I See It: A Daughter's Search for Home in Ireland Paperback – Bargain Price, December 9, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (December 9, 2004)
  • ISBN-10: 1580051324
  • ASIN: B001G8WQ9I
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,049,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although the author opens with a visit to her mother's native Ireland at 12 and ends with lighting candles in her new home in County Cork four decades later, this is no nostalgic memoir about getting back to your roots. Alice Carey has crafted a tough-minded examination of her complicated relationship with her heritage, a warm tribute to the theatrical free spirits who helped liberate her from an unhappy childhood. She grew up in Queens; her father often hit her and flew into a rage when his wife dared to augment the family's meager finances by working as a maid for Broadway producer Jed Harris. Helping Mammie in the afternoons, Alice glimpsed a glamorous, sophisticated world beyond the constraints of Catholic school and Celtic fatalism. She moved to Greenwich Village in her teens and made her life as a Manhattanite with a weekend home in Fire Island. When AIDS decimated that community in the 1990s, she and her husband moved to Ireland. Making an 18th-century farmhouse habitable is a black comedy Carey describes with a sardonic wit that echoes her Irish forebears and gay friends but is uniquely her own (she names "the Seven Dwarves of Restoration: Happy, Reluctant, Fearful, Suspicious, Wary, Hopeful, and Doubtful"). Her journey towards a new identity as "a real New Yorker living in Ireland" is all the more moving because it is chronicled with sharp perceptiveness and without sentimentality. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

While ostensibly the story of an Irish-American woman's return to the rural country of her forebears, Carey intercuts the story of choosing and restoring a Georgian-Irish "ruin" with her difficult childhood and adolescence in Astoria, Queens, with her sporadically violent janitor father and overworked mother. Yet Carey's childhood is turned around in the early 1960s when her mother begins work as a maid to Broadway producer Jean Dalrymple, and Carey is taken under the wings of Dalrymple's theater people, including famed director Jed Harris. She tells anecdotes of life with the producer's office boys (the "lads") and her renovation ("we were greeted by the Seven Dwarves of Restoration: Happy, Reluctant, Fearful, Suspicious, Wary, Hopeful, and Doubtful") in a marvelous high-low, wryly camp admixture that is as winning as it seems unique, even when telling of a disastrous childhood visist "home" to Ireland (and her pedophilic-priest uncle's wiles). If Carey only sketches out huge swaths of her life her years as a young actress in Greenwich Village and Fire Island's Cherry Grove, her husband's role at GMHC and the full toll that AIDS has taken on their lives, her battle with eosinophil myalgia, the renovations of "the Big House" as opposed to the stables they begin with one looks forward to further installments in this Irish-American partial reverse migration. The book ends with Carey's mother's inglorious death (echoed in Princess Diana's) and the christening of the stables as "Never Faileth." Carey upholds that credo beautifully here. (Feb.) Forecast: While Carey did not quite endure the same trials and tribulations as the brothers McCourt, her idiom and her New York story are firmly in that tradition but on Carey's own terms. The book embraces a variety of demographics and subgenres (feminist, gay and lesbian, New York-philic, emigrant, children of abuse, coming of age) effortlessly, and should cross over to excellent sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Listening to Alice Carey describe those moments on the deck of the RMS Mauretania as she and her Mammie approach Ireland reminds us of the overwhelming power of words to paint pictures in our mind?s eye. Whether it is a description of the cats on the mantel at Miss D?s, the butcher in Astoria or the sheep on the way to Skellig Michael?you can picture with ease all that Ms. Carey describes.
And if that were not enough, you can also hear the words. The dialogue on every page lends itself to be read aloud. And part of the joy of this book is ?hearing? Ms. Carey as you read about each event and leg of her journey. We all remember the events of our past with varying degrees of honesty and clarity. Ms. Carey takes a critical look at the milestones of her life?through the eyes of someone who has made the journey home with awe and affection.
For everyone who loves words, stories and laughter?this is a must read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful book! The poignant tale of a young girl raised in a difficult environment juxtaposed so beautifully with the story of a grown woman trying to make sense of her childhod is really a marvel. This book is full of intereseting contraposition. The flamboyancy of Fire Island versus the conservatism of Ireland, the poverty of her parent's circumstances versus the wealth of her mother's employer, Alice Carey's conservative Irish-Catholic relatives contrasted with her many gay friends, the hypocrisy of the priests and nuns who inform her upbringing- all made for a captivating journey. I loved the skillful means by which she brought these characters to life as much as I loved her ability to convey the essence of the emotions of a given moment in time. All in all, a terrific book!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tim Hume on December 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful, funny, enlightening book. Please Alice Carey - write me another one. My Irish mother would also like to read the next... Bravo!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found this book powerful and poetic. I couldn't put it down. The mix of past and present allowed me to feel more deeply what the author and her family and friends were going through...because I often knew where they were headed, it made the tragedy and joy all the more profound. We all search for home in our own ways, and while I'll never find and restore a home in Ireland, the author has given me a whole new sense of what it means for all of us. I didn't want to finish the book because I kept wanting to hear more of this author's wonderful voice.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found this book most enjoyable. It almost could of been
2 seperate books. Life on Broadway and Life on the Emerald Isle.
I would love Ms. Carey expand on both in future books....
A great read!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I read this book cover to cover in less than a day. While Alice Carey's life bears little resemblance to my own, she manages to evoke the desperation of not having enough, the way our childhood dreams take shape in our adult lives and the possibilities for coping with life's disappointments and opportunities. Weaving together the sadness of losing loved ones, the sweetness of family and marriage, and the pay-offs of taking a few risks, is no mean feat, but this book does it well and sustained my interest to the very end. Now I'm just interested in what happens next and the renovation of the one more part of the "ruin" in Ireland.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Bordeau on December 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
A friend, whom I accompanied on my first trip to Ireland last May, lent me Alice Carey's memoir "I'll Know It When I See It," knowing how enamored I have become of things Irish. Alice Carey, as a clever and witty story teller, has a natural knack for sizing up situtations and characterizing people that seems to be an Irish trait. Having lived for a while in NYC, I was amused by her reflections on the city, its rapid neighborhood changes, and at the same time dismayed at the stringent life she endured in Queens as a youngster, made especially difficult by a father whose abusive anger was probably rooted in the frustration of economic and social deprivation in a city where extreme wealth so clearly co-exists with poverty.

Alice's salvation resides in her mother, "mammie," whom she adored and who adored her. By the author's literary skill, mammie comes alive and endearing. One example is the episode where she and her mother attended the Broadway opening of "Peter Pan" starring Mary Martin, -a tale told with vivid detail. In her account of her ambivalent search for her roots in Ireland, I very much appreciated the account of her and her husband's finding and rehabilitating the Protestant mansion and rescuing the Catholic cottage from the cows near Bantry where they settled before tackling the manor house. That tale of renovation and acclimation would be a fitting sequel. Perhaps Alice Carey will treat us to that tale. A delicious read that ended all too soon.
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