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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

McCourt is the eldest of eight children born to Angela Sheehan and Malachy McCourt in the 1920s. The McCourts began their family in poverty in Brooklyn, yet when Angela slipped into depression after the death of her only daughter (four of eight children survived), the family reversed the tide of emigration and returned to Ireland, living on public assistance in Limerick. McCourt's story is laced with the pain of extreme poverty, aggravated by an alcoholic father who abandoned the family during World War II. Given the burdens of grief and starvation, it's a tribute to his skill that he can serve the reader a tale of love, some sadness, but at least as much laughter as the McCourts' "Yankee" children knew growing up in the streets of Limerick. His story, almost impossible to put down, may well become a classic. A wonderful book; strongly recommended for readers of any age. [Previewed in Prebub Alert, LJ 5/1/96.]‘Robert Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals, Framingham, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

It is a wonder that McCourt survived his childhood in the slums of Depression-era Limerick, Ireland: three of his siblings did not, dying of minor illnesses complicated by near starvation. Even more astonishing is how generous of spirit he became and remains. His family lived--barely--in a flat so miserable that every year they had to cram themselves into an upstairs room when winter floods made the place only half-habitable. That upstairs room was "Italy" --warm and dry. Downstairs was Ireland--wet and cold. Father sat up there drinking tea, while mother Angela often could not rise from bed, so depressed was she. Or mother sat by the fire, waiting for father to return; when he did, frequently drunk on their little money, he would line up the boys and extract promises that they would die for Ireland. Dying was what everyone seemed to do best: the little sister, the twins, the girl with whom Frank first had sex, the old man Frank read to, too many boys from school, too many neighbors, too many relatives. McCourt spares us no details: the stench of the one toilet shared by an entire street, the insults of the charity officers, the maurauding rats, the street fights, the infected eyes, the fleas in the mattress . . . Yet he found a way to love in that miserable Limerick, and it is love one remembers as the dominant flavor in this Irish stew. Many a lesser book gets the kind of publicity push that McCourt's memoir is happily slated to receive. Expect demand, not only from those seduced by blurbs and interviews, but from word-of-mouth thereafter. (Reviewed Aug. 1996)0684874350Patricia Monaghan

  Kirkus Review

A powerful, exquisitely written debut, a recollection of the author's miserable childhood in the slums of Limerick, Ireland, during the Depression and WW II. McCourt was born in Brooklyn in 1930 but returned to Ireland with his family at the age of four. He describes, not without humor, scenes of hunger, illness, filth, and deprivation that would have given Dickens pause. His ``shiftless loquacious alcoholic father,'' Malachy, rarely worked; when he did he usually drank his wages, leaving his wife, Angela, to beg from local churches and charity organizations. McCourt remembers his little sister dying in his mother's arms. Then Oliver, one of the twins, got sick and died. McCourt himself nearly died of typhoid fever when he was ten. As awful and neglectful as his father could be, there were also heartrendingly tender moments: Unable to pay for a doctor and fearful of losing yet another child when the youngest is almost suffocating from a cold, his father places ``his mouth on the little nose . . . sucking the bad stuff out of Michael's head.'' Malachy fled to do war work in England but failed to send any money home, leaving his wife and children, already living in squalor, to further fend for themselves. They stole and begged and tore wood from the walls to burn in the stove. Forced to move in with an abusive cousin, McCourt became aware that the man and his mother were having ``the excitement'' up there in their grubby loft. After taking a beating from the man, McCourt ran away to stay with an uncle and spent his teens alternating between petty crime and odd jobs. Eventually he made his way, once again, to America. An extraordinary work in every way. McCourt magically retrieves love, dignity, and humor from a childhood of hunger, loss, and pain. (First serial to the New Yorker; Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selections; author tour)
Summary
Frank McCourt was born in 1930 in Brooklyn, New York, to Irish immigrant parents, grew up in Limerick, Ireland, and returned to America in 1949. For thirty years he taught in New York City high schools. His first book, "Angela's Ashes," won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the "L.A. Times" Book Award. In 2006, he won the prestigious Ellis Island Family Heritage Award for Exemplary Service in the Field of the Arts and the United Federation of Teachers John Dewey Award for Excellence in Education. He lives with his wife, Ellen, in New York and Connecticut.
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