Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

A Pulitzer Prize-winning, #1 New York Times bestseller, Angela's Ashes is Frank McCourt's masterful memoir of his childhood in Ireland.

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

"So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Angela’s Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic."

This is the true story of a struggling Irish family during the depression. The description called it humorous and heartbreaking and while I agree with the heart break I found no humor in these pages. The sheer enormity of the suffering of the poverty stricken in that era nearly knocked me over. Children starving literally to death while their father drinks his entire pay check in the bar except for what he wastes buying drinks for others is not my idea of humor. A child so hungry he literally licks the grease off a newspaper made me want to cry, not laugh. This was a very emotional read for me, and had me wishing I could somehow go back in time and give these people a bag of groceries! Read it if you think you can tolerate the raw and savage emotions it will surely evoke.