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All Souls: A Family Story from Southie (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – October 3, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 534 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this plainly written, powerful memoir, MacDonald, now 32, details not only his own story of growing up in Southie, Boston's Irish Catholic enclave, but examines the myriad ways in which the media and law enforcement agencies exploit marginalized working-class communities. MacDonald was one of nine children born (of several fathers) to his mother, Helen MacDonald, a colorful woman who played the accordion in local Irish pubs to supplement her welfare checks. Having grown up in the Old Colony housing project, he describes his neighbors' indigence and pride of place, as well as their blatant racism (in 1975 the anti-busing riots in Southie made national headlines) and their deep denial of the organized crime and entrenched drug culture that was destroying the youth and social fabric. MacDonald's account is filled with vivid episodes: of his brother Davey's horrific incarceration in Mass Mental and ultimate suicide; of the time Helen took her older kids to the hospital, where her current lover was a patient, to beat him up after he denied he was the father of the child she was carrying; of the murder of his brother Frankie by his compatriots after the police shot him in an armored-car robbery. But perhaps most shocking is the accusation that the FBI was paying Southie's leading gangster, Whitey Bulger, as an informant although they knew he was the neighborhood kingpin. MacDonald, who now works on multiracial social projects in Boston, does not excuse Southie's racism, but he paints a frightening portrait of a community under intense economic and social stress, issuing a forceful plea for understanding and justice. Agent, Palmer and Dodge.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

"The best place in the world." That's what South Boston people --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034544177X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345441775
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (534 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,049,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I grew up in Dorchester which was on the other side of the tracks. Therefore, I already had something wrong with me should I venture to Southie. I was labeled an outsider and wouldn't dare go there alone even though I was white, Irish and Catholic. They were dangerous kids and if one of them accused you of looking at any of them the wrong way, that was enough for a gang beating. They were so full of anger and rage, and they could not ever form a sentence without using a slur of obsenities. I often wondered as a kid how these so called Irish Catholics could be so consumed with hate and venom not only against the rest of society, but towards each other as well. It never made sense to me. I am also Mike's cousin and even though we haven't seen each other since he was a kid, I always felt there was something different about Mike as compared to the rest of the pack. I did go to the apartment a couple of times and the atmosphere was exactly as he described it. Helen getting ready to go out with her accordian, the other tenant's yelling echoing in the halls, Mike at the window or watching TV and the endless metal door slamming from the coming and going activity. I was there for the Frank's funeral, he was a good guy who made a fatal error in judgement just looking for a way out. I also spent a little time with Kathy after her accident. A beautiful girl who loved to dance, now another statistic to the horrors of drugs. What might have been if she had grown up somewhere else is now just speculation. The family's pain was unbearable as one by one they were slipping away. They were caught up in a world of out of control madness with devastating consequences. Mike did an excellent job telling the truth for the most part.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Wow! I just finished reading the book...it brought a tear to my eye. As an African-American woman four years older tham Michael, born in the same housing project as he...the story hit home. I commend Mr. MacDonald for his poignant memoir. I grew up in Roslindale, at the time a predominately Irish-Catholic neighborhood, where I lived in fear of the "Southie" types. My family even experienced first-hand being chased out of Southie when I was a teen. My leaving Boston after high school was pretty much a reaction to the racism that permeated the city at that time. It was refreshing to get insight to the "other side" through Mr. MacDonald's brutal honesty. My heart does not bleed for his family or the people in the "best place in the world", but it does help me to understand the pathology that divide and conquer creates. And how when all is said and done and people have died...be all have much more in common than we'd like to think. It also has inspired me to tell my own story and look forward to more tales from Southie from this sensitive, daring writer. Thanks for the insight and memories!
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Format: Hardcover
This piece of literature has it all: it's moving, riveting, gripping, and revealing; and it's very well written. The author's clearly a talented story teller, and he's very courageous to put this revealing story of his family's tragic experiences in the public domain. Michael MacDonald(and Ma) should be commended just for that courage, not even considering his literary talents. I can't imagine the level of pain he endured writing it because of the pain I felt just reading it. The book's emotional spectrum runs the whole gamut from sadness, grief, and despair to sheer hilartity...there's that Irish wit and humor throughout.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone and everyone in our American society. The story had to be told: it's poverty and class, folks, not race! Whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc., whatever ethnic or racial group there is, those at the poor end of the specrum will suffer until society changes."All Souls" teaches us that. Hopefully we'll learn from this marvelous work, and things will improve.
Like Michael, I'm someone born and brought up in a Southie housing project(The Old Harbor Village), albeit some 25 years earlier. I was luckier than Michael and his siblings because I had two parents, and drugs and guns were virtually nonexistent in Southie's projects in the 40's, 50's, and early 60's when I was there. However, I can identify with and testify to the existence of "Southie Pride", and the insular nature of "The Town", that "us versus the rest of the world" mentality.
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Format: Hardcover
For a young man in his thirties, Michael Patrick MacDonaldexhibits a rare strong, intelligent, probing voice in thisautobiography of his childhood in the forced-busing 1970's SouthBoston.
Readers learn that poverty and tragedy, caused by or atleast exacerbated by Southie's own destructive code of silence and theFBI's refusal to prosecute the 'hood's mafia chief/purveyor ofdrugs/booze/weapons, end up devastating Southie and the author'sfamily. He loses 4 siblings to crime or discrimination.
This is NOTa depressing book. It is uplifting in the sense that Angela's Asheswas: the author writes most of the time from his childhood perspective-- one that doesn't know any other world but the one in which he isliving.
The family went out of their way to NOT look poor, to thepoint where they would buy shop-lifted designer clothes from a Southie"fence" so that they could look as fashionable as everyoneelse, despite the fact that their mother was a "career"welfare mom. MacDonald has said in interviews that in large part hisbook is about the denial of their poverty and immersion in thedrug/weapon culture he wants readers to understand. There's much, muchmore.
I am a Masters student in American & New England Studiesand had to read this book for a class called Ethnicity in America. Ifyou have one book to choose to give you a perspective on how the Irish"assimilated" to the Boston scene, choose this one. Youwon't be able to put it down.
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