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At Weddings and Wakes by Alice McDermott

At Weddings and Wakes (1992)

by Alice McDermott

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396727,024 (3.45)18



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My third Alice McDermott novel and I just love her writing. Very beautiful! ( )
  briannad84 | Feb 12, 2013 |
I got through it, but not my favorite McDermott. ( )
  shesinplainview | Jan 23, 2013 |
Though I admired some of the writing, I found the book to be poorly constructed overall. I'm an attentive readers, but found myself struggling to differentiate characters, and found the authors seemingly random jumps back and forth in time, and in voice, to be further disorienting. ( )
  handy1 | Feb 12, 2011 |
Three children learn about their family through observations and overheard whispers during cocktail hour...this is an Irish Catholic family, after all. They learned bits and pieces of family history when the ice and gin came out in their frequent visits to their aunts' rooms in Brooklyn during the late 1940's. Aunt Veronica told them about the secret book that recorded the hopes and dreams of the mother she never knew while she nursed her drink: They heard the ice cubes slip together in her glass, heard her stir it and sip from it in response, like a mother soothing a small child before she could continue her talk. (No need to tell them when the time came what it meant to nurse a drink; they had seen drinks nursed and patted, soothed and spoken to.)

This book doesn't have much of a plot; it's more of a retelling of the wedding of beloved Aunt May, the ex-nun who was lucky enough to find love in the secular world. It makes such an impression on the children that it becomes a focal point that is slowly revealed from different angles over the course of the book. I'm glad we have this happy event as a centering device because most of the story is dark and gloomy. Lucy, mother of the children, epitomizes this bleak outlook: Lying alone on the high bed in the now quickly dispersing darkness, Lucy would see that, given the muddle of life, loss following as it did every gain, and death and disappointment so inevitable, anger was the only appropriate emotion; that for any human being with any sense, any memory or foresight, every breath taken should be tinged with outrage.

Do not read this book for a happy fix! I liked it mostly due to the incredibly lyrical language of Alice McDermott. She can express beauty in the most ordinary situations. I give it 5 stars for the writing and 2 stars for the plot. ( )
3 vote Donna828 | Sep 8, 2010 |
  living2read | Jun 8, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385319851, Paperback)

Telling a story through the eyes of children is a tricky business, which is that much more proof of what a magician Alice McDermott happens to be. At Weddings and Wakes, her engrossing portrayal of love and tragedy in an Irish-Catholic family, takes us along with the kids as they accompany their mother on weekly visits to a world of memory and recrimination in the family's old Brooklyn neighborhood. An exquisitely executed little novel that masks all its hard work and complex structure behind finely wrought lace curtains of craft.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:11 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Set in the Sixties, McDermott's third novel tells the story of an extended Irish-American family observed primarily through the eyes of the children, a son and two daughters. Time circles backwards and forwards around a variety of family rituals: holiday meals, vacations at the shore, the wedding of a favorite aunt. The poignant middle-aged romance that develops between the aunt, a former nun, and her suitor, a shy mailman, exacerbates already pronounced family tensions. As they listen to oft-repeated stories about poverty, disease, and early deaths, the children are solemn witnesses to the Irish immigrant experience in America. By turns wry and sad, this is McDermott's finest novel to date. Highly recommended.… (more)

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