Angela’s Ashes: my favorite book of the year

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt—I’ve seen the book “around” over the years (especially since it won a Pultizer Prize), and it always looked like a dull historical kind of memoir thingy. Plus, it looked kinda sad. There was a bereft-looking child on the front, and I had no interest in knowing what bereft-type things happened to this child. My primary thought as this child gazed into my soul was “I DON’T WANT TO FEEL DEPRESSED! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME FEEL DEPRESSED, SMALL ORPHAN-LOOKING CHILD!” But my dad said he had heard good things about it, and since I was already sitting at the computer when he mentioned this, I went ahead and added it to my library request list. From the first pages, I was immediately drawn in. Frank McCourt’s writing is extremely powerful, and completely compelling. Normally I don’t like styles of writing that don’t clearly demarcate dialogue. I tend to find it takes too much effort to read a text in which speech, thoughts, and actions kind of run together. But this book was different. It felt uncontrived, like the natural outpouring of Frank’s mind as a boy. It is a little sad, but without feeling tragic or heavy. It presents weighty themes but manages to be lighthearted. If a book makes me feel depressed, I have a hard time coming back to it—but this book did not! Even though the themes were sometimes heartrending, when I stopped reading it each day I always felt uplifted. There are some sexual themes, but they didn’t feel “dirty” to me—they were guilelessly written, and there is an innocence to the narrative voice that makes it all work—however I wouldn’t recommend this book to a young’un.

The sequel “’Tis” is also fantastic, and after finishing “Angela’s Ashes” I absolutely had to continue the journey. I believe it’s equally well written, but seeing Frank become an adult and get caught up in drinking like his father before him was sad. Anyway—I still recommend it hands down. Pick it up at the library! I guarantee they have it.

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