I read a lot of fiction, but I only post about it when I happen on something pretty spectacular. (If anybody is interested in my regular reading opinions, check out, where I post minimally on whatever I read.)

The last novel I went gaga on was Wolf Hall. Not quite to that level, but really worth noting, is Someone, by Alice McDermott. It’s the unspectacular life story of an Irish-American woman, Marie, who grows up in Brooklyn This is not a family saga, but a portrait offered through a series of almost-still lifes. McDermott is not a showy writer, but she is extraordinary at depicting ordinary life. She’s subtle, detailed, devoted to faithfulness and truth. That’s what makes the novel so fetching: it’s reality, watched with attentive reverence.

Yet it’s quiet and unobtrusive reverence. The title, for example, comes from a line early in the book when Marie is heartbroken by a cruel jilting from her first love. She pours out her agony to her brother, asking who will ever love her–an awkward, myopic girl? Someone, he says, someone will love you. And the book is nearly at its end before you realize who that someone is. There is love, McDermott seems to say, but it comes from where we are not looking, and in forms we do not automatically recognize.


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