This morning we had a very interesting discussion on the book Someone by Alice McDermott. Many of our regular Book Clubbers found it a great read. Even those who thought it somewhat disjointed gave it three stars (out of five), but for the first time, we had more than one person rating it a five star book! So congratulations, Ms. McDermott. Rave reviews!
A lot of the discussion revolved around the meaning of vision and sight. Marie has had problems with her eyesight her entire life. This lack of ability to see clearly is echoed in the many relationships Marie has – including her brother Gabe, her parents, and Walter, among others.
On a related note, we talked about the meaning of people falling throughout the book. Not only does the book begin and end with the story of Pegeen and her fatal fall, but several other characters take serious tumbles throughout the novel.
We also discussed the implications of making assumptions and how that might have affected Gabe’s relationship to the church, as well as Marie’s relationship to Gabe. There are a lot of significant events that she never explicitly discusses with Gabe – among them his sexuality, their father’s death, Gabe’s decision to leave the church. In addition, McDermott teases the reader with snippets of stories that aren’t exactly clear – for example, did Pegeen fall down the stairs by accident, or did she possibly do it on purpose?
Some of our Book Clubbers come from an Irish background, and for them, this book rang very true to their memories of childhood. However, even those of us who did not have Irish ancestors found resonance in the stories between young Marie and her mother, particularly when her mother would try to teach her how to clean or cook.
We all wanted to talk about the movement back and forth in time of the novel. Obviously this was a conscious decision on the author’s part, so what did it mean? One of our Book Clubbers astutely noted that she enjoyed this because it was exactly the way memories work. We all agreed this was a distinct possibility, and even those who thought it was disjointed appreciated that explanation.
All of us (or at least most of us!) admitted to having to go back and re-read sections because we thought perhaps we had missed something significant. Usually we had. McDermott’s language is beautiful but sparse, so a lot can happen in the span of a page, a paragraph, or even a sentence. Unpacking her words made for a really great discussion.