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Charming Billy by Alice McDermott

Charming Billy (1998)

by Alice McDermott

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1,800353,890 (3.4)64
  1. 00
    My Mamas Waltz: A Book for Daughters of Alchoholic Mothers by Eleanor Agnew (cammykitty)
    cammykitty: Non-fiction, but yes that painful realm - loving someone who is slowly disappearing before your eyes
  2. 11
    Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner (nancyewhite)

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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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  BookConcierge | Mar 4, 2016 |
A so/so story of the late Billy Lynchis family of 1947 who gather to remember good times and redeem the pleasure of a drink or two, and the miserable thing that drink had become in Billys' life. They admire the way his wife took care of him all the long years in spite of his unrequited love for a girl he met many summer's earlier, and who had left with his money. He hears that she had died, but finds out toward the end of his life she had faked her death to him.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
I especially liked how the author gives you in tiny bits and pieces the information you need to figure out who is talking and to whom he/she is talking - important but not essential to the story. Alice McDermott is a great writer and is very good at fleshing out characters and their stories. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
There is a quiet sturdiness to this book as embodied by the characters of Maeve and Dennis, but aside from that I can't think of much to say about it. I didn't love it; however, I liked it well enough. At least it wasn't maudlin or bitter. Interesting ordinary people.

( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
There is a quiet sturdiness to this book as embodied by the characters of Maeve and Dennis, but aside from that I can't think of much to say about it. I didn't love it; however, I liked it well enough. At least it wasn't maudlin or bitter. Interesting ordinary people.

( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
We all have books that rededicate us to the fantastic powers of fiction, and this is one of mine. McDermott makes the point that when a person’s life story is fully told they may become more mysterious—easy to say, but when fiction brings you to a realization like this, when an author can make this happen inside of you—there’s nothing like it.
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Somewhere in The Bronx, only twenty minutes or so from the cemetery, Maeve found a small bar-and-grill in a wooded alcove set well off the street that was willing to serve the funeral party of forty-seven mediium-rare roast beef and boiled potatoes and green beans amandine, with fruit salad to begin and vanilla ice cream to go with the coffee.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 038533334X, Paperback)

Charming Billy is a devastating account of the power of longing and lies, love's tenacity, and resignation's hold. Even at his funeral party, Billy Lynch's life remains up for debate. This soft-spoken, poetry lover's drinking was as legendary among his Queens, New York, family and friends as was his disappointment in love. But the latter, as his cousin Dennis knows, "was, after all, yet another sweet romance to preserve." After World War II, both young men had spent one sun-swept week on Long Island, renovating a house and falling in with two Irish sisters--nannies to a wealthy family--"marveling, marveling still, that this Eden was here, at the other end of the same island on which they had spent their lives."

By the end of their idyll, Billy and Eva were engaged, though she was set to return to County Wicklow. Determined to earn enough money to bring her, her family, and if necessary her entire village back to the U.S., Billy took two jobs, one of which would indenture him for years. But despite the money he sent, Eva never returned, and then was suddenly dead of pneumonia. The true tragedy is that she had simply kept her fare and married someone else--a secret Dennis keeps for the next 30 years as he watches Billy fall into a loveless marriage and the self-administered anesthesia of alcohol.

Alice McDermott's quiet, striking novel is a study of the lies that bind and the weight of familial wishes. She seems far less interested in the shock of revelation than in her characters' power to live through personal disaster. As Dennis's daughter pieces together Billy's real history, she also learns of the accommodations her own family had long made--and discovers that good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they mean to hide.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:59 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Everyone loved him. If you knew Billy at all, then you loved him. The late Billy Lynch's family and friends, a party of forty-seven, gather at a small bar and grill somewhere in the Bronx to remember better times in good company, and to redeem the pleasure of a drink or two from the miserable thing that a drink had become in Billy's life. His widow, Maeve, is there and everyone admires the way she is holding up, just as they always admired the way she cared for Billy after the alcohol had ruined him. But one cannot think of Billy Lynch's life, one's own relentless affection for him, without saying at some point, "There was that girl. The Irish girl." And one can't help but think that the real story of his life lay there.… (more)

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