This remarkable debut novel chronicles sixty years in the life of Eileen Tumulty. Eileen is the only child of Irish immigrants living in a tiny apartment. At an early age, Eileen assumes a mantle of responsibility for her mother due to the haze of alcoholism that surrounds the family. Eileen is determined to find a way out of this lifestyle, and this determination is characteristic of her throughout the book. When she meets and marries Ed Leary, a respected research scientist and teacher, she believes that she has found someone who shares her dreams of a better life. When their son, Connell, is born, Eileen's intensity about improving their place in the world escalate even more while Ed is content with what they already have. When Ed's early descent into a disease from which there is no return occurs, Eileen's determination and resilience are tested beyond any imaginings.
Matthew Thomas writes with a poignancy and clarity that define his style and impact this book. These are characters who are doing their best in life-altering situations, and the details of their life are vivid and heartbreaking. I regretted when this novel ended due to the strong connection with the characters who came alive on its pages. Matthew Thomas is a gifted writer and this is a story I will long remember.