Someone, by Alice McDermott, is a novel I probably wouldn’t have read if it hadn’t been for a book club. Though the author is quite prolific, I haven’t read a single one of her novels. The cover is unremarkable, so that wouldn’t have grabbed my attention. That’s one of the good things about a book club. You read things you might otherwise not even consider. I’m very glad to have read Someone.
I will admit that for me, Someone had a slow start. In fact, I was prepared to dislike it, much like a toddler might stomp their feet at being forced to eat an unfamiliar food. I was a few chapters in before I realized that the plot line which was escaping me was doing so for a good reason. Their really isn’t a plot line.
Instead, in what is almost a series of vignettes, the life story of Marie Commeford — a totally unremarkable woman — is doled out to the reader, piece by piece. She lives with her mother and father and her brother Gabe who is seemingly destined for the priesthood. It begins with the nearly-blind young Marie waiting on the porch of her Brooklyn home for her much-loved father to come home from work. In stories that jump from one period of her life to another, we watch her develop, learn to love, face the death of her parents, marry and have children. There is nothing particularly unforgettable about any of these events. She is a likeable old woman who becomes a likeable old woman.
It is the story of how Marie becomes comfortable with her ordinary self. At the same time, she watches her brother struggle with his sexuality and eventually leave the priesthood.
McDermott’s writing was simply beautiful — like reading a poem. It is absolutely what made this novel a delight to read. I will be reading more of her books in the future.