Eileen Tumulty did not have an easy life growing up. She was raised in the 1940s by working class Irish immigrant parents. In most cases, Eileen had to take care of her parents, but Eileen was adamant on making a better life for herself. She met Ed Leary, a scientist and was convinced that with his station in life, she found the perfect partner with whom she can live her American Dream.
Ed Leary is an intelligent man, but Eileen soon realizes that Ed does not share the same aspirations as she does. He gets various opportunities for better jobs, yet he turns them down each and every time as he chose to rather spend his time on research and working as a college professor. Eileen continues to pursue better opportunities for herself, her husband and her son Connell. When Eileen decides to move out of her neighborhood, Ed was adamant that he does NOT want to move. Soon Eileen noticed a change in Ed, he was easily confused, very adamant about his routine and resistance to change and an overall increase in his stubborn personality. It soon transpired that this change in Ed could be attributed to an illness, a psychological disorder that would soon change their family life dramatically.
We Are Not Ourselves is a story about family that are very character driven. Eileen was a flawed character in so many ways. She was very particular about the way she wanted to live her life, but she was also very judgmental and intolerable against other cultures and people. It was one of the main reasons why she wanted to move to a better neighborhood. That is one aspect of her personality that really made me not like her that much. Her relationship with her parents also had an impact on her relationship with her son, Connell. She was hard on him at times and constantly tried to push him into a direction that sometimes seemed he didn’t want.
Connell’s story plays a large role in the novel too, but mostly Ed’s story is being told
from Eileen and Connell’s experiences. His and his family’s struggle with his illness are described in heartbreaking detail. Although Ed’s illness and the way it changes the family dynamics is the main story in We Are Not Ourselves, his story from his own perspective are never addressed in the novel. Even though that would have been an added bonus, We Are Not Ourselves still remains an emotional read and beautifully written novel. This lengthy novel is slow moving at times, but the overall story is worth the read. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys family sagas and especially if you enjoyed Elizabeth is Missing.
Have you read this novel? What did you think of it?