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Someone: A Novel Hardcover – September 10, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this deceptively simple tour de force, McDermott (Charming Billy, winner of the National Book Award) lays bare the keenly observed life of Marie Commeford, an ordinary woman whose compromised eyesight makes her both figuratively and literally unable to see the world for what it is. When we meet her on the steps of her Brooklyn townhouse, she's a bespectacled seven-year-old waiting for her father; McDermott then leaps ahead, when Marie, pregnant with her first child, recalls collapsing at a deli counter and the narrative plunges us into a world where death is literally just around the corner, upending the safety and comfort of her neighborhood; In a few months' time, I would be at death's door, last rites and all, she relates. We follow Marie through the milestones of her life, shadowed by her elder brother, Gabe, who mysteriously leaves the priesthood for which everyone thought he was destined. The story of Marie's life unfolds in a nonlinear fashion: McDermott describes the loss of Marie's father, her first experience with intimacy, her first job (in a funeral parlor of all places), her marriage, the birth of a child. We come to feel for this unremarkable woman, whose vulnerability makes her all the more winning—and makes her worthy of our attention. And that's why McDermott, a three-time Pulitzer nominee, is such an exceptional writer: in her hands, an uncomplicated life becomes singularly fascinating, revealing the heart of a woman whose defeats make us ache and whose triumphs we cheer. Marie's vision (and ours) eventually clears, and she comes to understand that what she so often failed to see lay right in front of her eyes. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company. (Sept.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* “Who is going to love me?” Marie asks her older brother, Gabe, after her heart is broken. “Someone,” he replies. How humble this pronoun is, and what a provocative title it makes. Readers who love refined, unhurried, emotionally fluent fiction will rejoice at National Book Award–winner McDermott’s return. McDermott (After This, 2006) is a master of hidden intensities, intricate textures, spiked dialogue, and sparkling wit. We first meet Marie at age seven, when she’s sitting on the stoop in her tight-knit, Irish-Catholic Brooklyn neighborhood, waiting for her father to come home from work. Down the street, boys play stickball, consulting with dapper Billy, their blind umpire, an injured WWI vet. Tragedies and scandals surge through the enclave, providing rough initiations into sex and death. Gabe becomes a priest. Marie works at a funeral home as a “consoling angel,” acquiring cryptic clues to the mysteries of life via teatime gossip sessions with the director’s wise mother and a circle of wryly knowing nuns. Eventually Marie finds joy as a wife and mother, while Gabe struggles with his faith and sexuality. A marvel of subtle modulations, McDermott’s keenly observed, fluently humane, quietly enthralling novel of conformity and selfhood, of “lace-curtain pretensions” as shield and camouflage, celebrates family, community, and “the grace of a shared past.” HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A new McDermott novel is big news, and Someone will be heralded nationally with an author tour and enhanced cross-country publicity in all media. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281090
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (512 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

121 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Eric on September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge fan of Alice Mcdermott and this is clearly her finest work. If not already recognized as one of America's finest writers, Someone will establish her credentials for generations to come. As stated in Roxanna Robinson's rave review in the Washington Post "This kind of novel is necessary to us...This kind of knowledge expands our understanding, it enlarges our souls." I just finished Someone but given the richness of Alice McDermott's prose and the poetry of each line I'm certain to return to it again and again.
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115 of 134 people found the following review helpful By moviegoer on September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This writer has won the National Book Award and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three times. I know, I know, "past performance is no guarantee..." but still,
McDermott has done it again. Don't be surprised if this novel acts as a magnet for prizes. It's like a perfect miniature, with not a wasted word. The prose is flawless, and
flows like water downhill. It's as if a certain very famous female Canadian short story writer had written a novel. Do yourself a favor and read this novel.
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94 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth Altruda on September 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, for me, Alice McDermott has done it again: taken me back to the Brooklyn of my childhood. While not of the
ages of her characters, however, I can attest to the complex family dynamics that Ms. McDermott describes. It's
interesting that she references Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church. I was baptized there and attended
released time for religious instructions at the school since I went to public school. The drinking and boozing.
Yes, I'm quite familiar with that activity having been raised in the "projects" by an alcoholic grandmother. Alice McDermott reminds me of a New York-ish James Joyce when she presents the residents of the block: the cripple,
the blind, the dysfunctional, and the most likely homosexual priest, Gabe. In my early years in lower Brooklyn,
I knew Dave with a deformed hand (he was also a raging alcoholic who lived with his two kids in the apartment
next door), Carol whose arm had been burned when she wound up, as a kid, being scalded with hot tea. Another
girl wore "Coke bottle glasses" that did nothing to remedy her cross-eyes. We played with ALL the kids, and
their limitations did not bother us one little bit. Alice McDermott captures that era, that time, when we
were innocent and carefree. Stickball, jacks, hit the stick, potsy, and splitting a popsickle with your best
friend. McDermott has brought me back to the 50's and many memories, both good and bad. Thanks.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Stephen T. Hopkins VINE VOICE on September 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was blown away by Alice McDermott's novel, Someone. In a compact 240 pages, she presents the full and interesting life of an ordinary woman, protagonist Marie Commeford. McDermott presents scenes from childhood, adolescence, marriage, motherhood and old age, to reveal the richness of life, love and family. Through stripping away anything unnecessary, McDermott allows readers to enter into a time period (post World War II) and a place (Brooklyn) that combine to reveal the depth of emotion and human experience that can be found in the most ordinary lives. Readers who lived as Brooklyn Irish Catholics will note that McDermott captures the essence of that life. Any reader who appreciates well-written prose will likely enjoy this superb novel.

Rating: Five-star (I love it)
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By DGreen on September 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A master work. Even better than the other Alice McDermott's I've read.

One detail stands out for me. When narrator Marie finally finds a husband (Tom) and is safely in bed with him on her wedding night in a hotel room (with sheets smelling faintly of bleach), she says: "For one of us, we knew, we were certain--this is how we saw the world--there would never again be loneliness. For Tom, it turned out."

This critical observation is never mentioned again. Marie's loneliness is never fleshed out, or described in any way, yet it continues hold sway over the rest of the book. This is what Alice McDermott is so good at, conveying the deepest emotions indirectly, quietly, with just a slight shift of the hip or raise of an eyebrow.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By thewanderingjew on December 2, 2013
Format: Audio CD
This is such a marvelous, easy to read story told through Marie's memories as she looks back over the years recalling the things that were meaningful in her life. It is told in an uncomplicated, simple, straight-forward way in which all life-cycle events, some major and some minor, play a role. As the pages turn, we witness births, deaths, tragedies, joys, marriages, illnesses, milestones and setbacks, dreams and nightmares. Family devotion and loyalty, sibling rivalry and sibling love, parental responsibility and parental abuse, success and failure, hopes and aspirations, anxiety and desperation, all appear on the pages as naturally as if they were happening to us, as well as the characters.
The author has a way with words so that the story lifts off the page and the reader is transported to the time and place in Brooklyn, where Marie was raised in a tight knit Irish immigrant neighborhood. So accurately does she describe the life, in the home and on the street, in the workplace and in the church, in the medical facilities and in the school, that I was reminded of my own years growing up in Brooklyn, watching my brother study for a career while I was expected to be a secretary or a teacher, since not all avenues were open to women then, and I was filled with nostalgia for that simpler time when neighbors actually not only knew each other, but they cared about each other, even as they gossiped and created rumors. They talked to each other almost every day as they lived in communities where neighborliness was the norm.
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