I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.
[Thank you to LibraryThing and Simon & Schuster for this advance copy.]
We Are Not Ourselves is a stunning novel, and it almost defies belief that it is a debut effort. (Although the publisher does state that he had already put two other novels in a drawer before this one.) It tells the story of three generations of Irish-Americans in Queens who are linked through Eileen--the daughter, the wife, the nurse, and the mother. As such, it is the classic story of immigrants in the U.S.: disoriented at first, but then adapting, integrating, and thriving (one hopes).
But it is also the story of Eileen's relationships with the men in her life: her father, "Big Mike," who is the godfather (in the Mario Puzo sense) of their community; her husband Ed, a brilliant but unambitious academic and neuroscientist; and her son Connell, who bears the legacy of both of his parents.
And it is also the story of a George Baileyesque character from It's a Wonderful Life, in which every time he thinks he's on the brink of getting what he wants, it's taken away, but he ends up richer for it.
If you read this book for no other reason, read it for the evocative and beautiful language:
Now, having said all of that, a couple of caveats:
1. Be in a strong emotional place when you read it. I'm serious.
2. As epic as the book is (620 pages in my copy), there are a few places where the narrative jumps unexpectedly. If the book is truly Eileen's story, where are the details of her time in college? Surely there was some culture shock when she left her sheltered neighborhood and met students from other backgrounds, at least. There isn't much about her daily work, either--I think the book would have been stronger if we'd been shown how she became such a good nurse and supervisor, given the role this will play eventually.
Final word: I have a major collection of bookmarks--I seem to pick them up without realizing it, and then I can't get rid of them, because reasons. I didn't notice, until I was almost at the end of the book, that the one I had selected for this book said, "Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect--Margaret Mitchell." Uncanny how well it mirrors the theme of We Are Not Ourselves.