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Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt "When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." So starts Frank McCourt's tragic memoir. Born in New York City, the oldest of seven children, only four of whom would make it to the age four, Frank McCourt's childhood is full of misery and sadness. After the bury his younger sister is buried, his mom, dad, and his brother move back to Ireland and settle in Limerick. His father is wasteful drunkard, his mother emotionally unstable after the death of three children, and the rest of his Irish relations cruel. Yet somehow Frank manages to survive it all and at the age of 19 make it back to America.

The story was desperately sad and moving. I can't imagine growing up in the conditions he had to endure, and certainly to be able to talk about it with the beauty he managed. Yet Frank not only survived, but also make something out of it. I wish I could have given it more than three stars because it is an incredible story of survival and life that not many of us see, yet there is just something missing. I don't think it is so much a problem of his narrative as it is of my expectations. A Pulitzer Prize winner and a much hyped novel led to me building this memoir up into my mind, and rare is a book that can meet the expectations we set for it. Even with the three star rating though, I highly recommend this novel.

***Postscript*** Looking back on this review, I feel that I must increase the rating to a full five stars. It has been one of the most memorable reads of 2010 and I just can't see that it deserves the original three stars I gave it. This book has all the qualities you can hope for from a book, it is tragic, stirring and beautiful, all seamlessly blended together. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?