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Angela's Ashesby Frank Mccourt
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography/Autobiography
Synopses & Reviews
“A bracing and no-nonsense memoir, infused with fresh takes on love, death, and human nature.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
As with many of us, the life of acclaimed novelist Howard Norman has had its share of incidents of “arresting strangeness.” Yet few of us connect these moments, as Norman has done in this spellbinding memoir, to show how life tangles with the psyche to become art. Norman’s story begins with a portrait, both harrowing and hilarious, of a Midwest boyhood summer working in a bookmobile, in the shadow of a grifter father and under the erotic tutelage of his brother’s girlfriend. His life story continues in places as far-flung as the Arctic, where he spends part of a decade as a translator of Inuit tales—including the story of a soapstone carver turned into a goose whose migration-time lament is “I hate to leave this beautiful place”—and in his beloved Point Reyes, California, as a student of birds. In the Arctic, he receives news over the radio that “John Lennon was murdered tonight in the city of New York in the USA.” And years later, in Washington, D.C., another act of deeply felt violence occurs in the form of a murder-suicide when Norman and his wife loan their home to a poet and her young son. Norman’s story is also stitched together with moments of uncanny solace. Of life in his Vermont farmhouse Norman writes, “Everything I love most happens most every day.”
In the hands of Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and What Is Left the Daughter, life’s arresting strangeness is made into a profound, creative, and redemptive memoir.
"A classic modern memoir...stunning." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Every once in a while, a lucky reader comes across a book that makes an indelible impression, a book you immediately want to share with everyone around you....Frank McCourt's life, and his searing telling of it, reveal all we need to know about being human." Linnea Lannon, Detroit Free Press
"A spellbinding memoir of childhood that swerves flawlessly between aching sadness and desperate humor...a work of lasting beauty." Peter Finn, Philadelphia Inquirer
"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." Patricia Monaghan, Booklist
"A powerful, exquisitely written debut... An extraordinary work in every way. McCourt magically retrieves love, dignity, and humor from a childhood of hunger, loss, and pain." Kirkus Reviews
"The power of this memoir is that it makes you believe the claim: that despite the rags and hunger and pain, love and strength do come out of misery — as well as a page-turner of a book. And though the experience it tells of was individual, the point — and the story — is universal." Vanessa V. Friedman, Entertainment Weekly
"It is only the best storyteller who can so beguile his readers that he leaves them wanting more when he's done. With Angela's Ashes, McCourt proves himself one of the very best." Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"This memoir is an instant classic of the genre...good enough to be the capstone of a distinguished writing career; let's hope it's only the beginning of Frank McCourt's." Nina King, The Washington Post Book World
"What is it that transforms a childhood blighted by poverty, death and disease into a story that shines with love and leaps off the page in language of rare energy, music and humor? In the case of Angela's Ashes, I think it must be Frank McCourt's soul. This memoir is the best I've read in years, and I'm putting it on the small shelf in the company of the few books I don't lend — lest they're gone when I want them again." Kathryn Harrison
"Frank McCourt's lyrical Irish voice will draw comparisons to Joyce. It's that seductive, that hilarious." Mary Karr
"Frank McCourt has examined his ferocious childhood, walked around it, relived it, and with skill and care and generosity of heart, has transformed it into a triumphant work of art. This book will be read when all of us are gone." Pete Hamill, Irish American Magazine
A memoir of the haunting and redemptive events of the acclaimed writer's life—the betrayal of a con-man father; a murder-suicide in his family's house; the presence of an oystercatcher—each one, as the saying goes, stranger than fiction.
Angela’s Ashes, imbued on every page with the author’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic. “Frank McCourt’s life, and his searing telling of it, reveals all we need to know about being human” (The Detroit Free Press).
A Pulitzer Prize-winning, #1 New York Times bestseller, Angela's Ashes is Frank McCourt's masterful memoir of his childhood in Ireland.
“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 begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Franks mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Franks father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his fathers tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.
Perhaps it is story that accounts for Franks survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pigs head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.
Angelas Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourts astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.
About the Author
Frank McCourt (1930-2009) was born 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.
Table of Contents
Advice of the Fatherly Sort
Grey Geese Descending
I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place
The Healing Powers of the
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